Northern Ireland news

Ballymena attack 'motivated by Paris atrocity'

Amin and Margaret Ibrahim pictured in their home at Kintyre Park in Ballykeel, Ballymena. Picture by Ann McManus

THE wife of a Muslim man whose family home was damaged in a petrol bomb attack has said she believes they were targeted because of the Paris terror attacks.

Margaret Ibrahim told The Irish News she and her husband Amin are now unsure whether they will move back in to their home of 20 years in Ballymena, Co Antrim.

The couple and their two teenage children, Muhammad (17) and Sarah (19), escaped injury when the petrol bomb was thrown through the front window of the house in Kintyre Park, Ballykeel at around 1am.

The device ignited but the flames were extinguished by the family.

Two men wearing hooded tops were seen fleeing the scene.

Police confirmed they were treating the attack as a "religious hate crime".

The attack came after the UPRG in north Antrim, the political wing of the UDA, had described Muslims as "rabid dogs" on social media and said "We don't let rapid dogs walk around our towns".

The comments have since been reported to police.

Mrs Ibrahim and her husband, whose mother is from Ballymena and father from Sudan, have experienced attacks before, but not on the same scale as yesterday morning.

"We were in bed, it was about 1am and my husband heard a bang and when he went down to look he said there was a fire in the living room," she said.

"I could my next door neighbour knocking the door to tell us to get out, that there was a fire in the house. My son was shouting to my daughter to get out.

"Neighbours took us in and looked after us. The way I'm feeling now, I don't want to come back to the house.

"But we have lived here for over 20 years. We have lovely neighbours and have been happy here, but after what has happened, I don't know."

Asked why she believed they were targeted, Mrs Ibrahim said: "What has happened in Paris, it's because of that.

"I think the house was attacked because my husband is Muslim and it was Muslim people which did it in Paris.

"I'm Protestant and my husband is Muslim and we live in a Protestant housing estate.

"We have had bother before, eggs thrown at our home, mirror on our car door broken, car windscreen smashed and verbal abuse. But it has never been to this extreme.

"You hear of things like this happening in Belfast or Derry, but you don't think it's going to happen to you.

"We just don't know what we are going to do, it definitely makes us reconsider moving back in."

Asked if she believed the attack could be linked to loyalist statements following the Paris attacks, she said: "It's hard to say who did this, but it's because of what happened in Paris last week".

PSNI Superintendent Ryan Henderson said the couple are "long-standing and valued members of our community".

"The people who carried out this petrol bomb attack are totally out of step with our modern and multi-cultural community," he said.

"I am disgusted by this attack and I know that the vast majority of Ballymena people will react in a similar way.

"They offer nothing to their community and the people of Ballymena. Their hateful views and intolerance have manifested themselves in a dangerous attack on an innocent family".

Sinn Féin's Dathí McKay said the damage to the house "and the motivation behind it could most certainly have led to the death or serious injury".

Ulster Unionist Robin Swann said: "I totally condemn this despicable and cowardly attack on law abiding people living in Ballykeel. It is an absolute disgrace and the work of cowards".

DUP councillor Billy Ashe said: "These attacks are senseless and they achieve nothing but sadness for the individuals concerned, and the community at large".

SDLP representative Connor Duncan also said those responsible are "at odds with the people of Ballymena and north Antrim who stand united against Islamophobia and all hate crime."

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