Racist attacks 'designed to scare'
A series of racist attacks in Northern Ireland on Monday night were orchestrated and designed to create fear, police said.
Homes and cars were damaged and graffiti daubed on walls in east Belfast in a spate of linked hate crimes against Romanians and Slovakians, according to the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).
Investigators said it was too early to say which group was responsible for last night's trouble - which included six attacks - but have not ruled out loyalist paramilitary involvement.
Superintendent Mark McEwan said: "These incidents which took place last night were designed to intimidate families within those homes."
A large rise in racist incidents has been recorded across Belfast since a PSNI operation targeting perpetrators began in May.
A total of 21 searches have been conducted, 20 people arrested and five charged, police said.
On Monday night the windows of two houses in Bloomfield Avenue and Chobham Street off the Upper Newtownards Road were smashed. Paint was thrown over the second property.
Two cars were damaged in Rosebery Street and Ravenscroft Street.
Racist graffiti appeared on gable walls near Chobham Street and at a junction of Elmdale Street and Bately Street.
Mr McEwan said: "These included attacks on people's homes, attacks on people's cars, attacks on homes and many of them family homes with young children staying in them, so horrendous in nature and clearly racially motivated - clearly designed to intimidate and scare people .
"There is a certain level of orchestration to this group of people, some of them masked, who carried out these attacks but at this point we are unable to say whether any particular group is involved."
A group of men was seen running off towards the Ravenscroft area shortly after the graffiti appeared.
The vehicle attacked in Rosebery Street was covered in paint and all its windows shattered.
Mr McEwan said all attacks took place some time before 10.50pm on Monday.
Officers are investigating a link between the incidents and are treating them as hate crimes.
A range of ethnic minorities have been targeted in recent times, including Poles and those of African descent.
Mr McEwan said police were pursuing a number of lines of inquiry and examining items for forensics.
SDLP leader Dr Alasdair McDonnell said the crimes were "despicable and cowardly".
He said: "Already this year we have witnessed too many racist attacks; attacks which serve only to create fear and raise tensions in already frightened communities.
"Belfast cannot be allowed to become the racist capital of the north, especially when so many people from here have been welcomed in so many countries around the world."
Dr McDonnell added: "These attacks must not be tolerated. People have the right to live in peace, but no one has the right to instil fear and tension in any community."