Arsonists target Northern Ireland restaurant hours after opening night
A restaurant has been targeted by arsonists - just a few hours after opening its doors for the first time.
Mama Masala, an eatery in the Glengormley area of Newtownabbey, was targeted on Monday night.
The Italian-Indian restaurant, which is on the site of the former Royal Thai Chinese restaurant, opened to the public on Monday, and was operating between 4.30pm and 10.30pm. It was targeted shortly after midnight.
The owner, 35-year-old Pal Singh, who has lived in Newtownabbey for 12 years, told the Belfast Telegraph: "It is unbelievable, it's a brand new restaurant, it was our first night and we put a lot of work into it. We were packed out and there was a very good atmosphere.
"We finished at 11.30pm and went home."
He added: "At 2am, I got a call from the security alarm company to tell me that something was wrong.
"CCTV shows two boys breaking in through the back with petrol things and pouring it over all the booths and setting fire, burning everything."
Mr Singh said the attack had caused a lot of damage.
"Both seating areas are badly damaged, ceilings, walls, seats - everything," he added.
"Never in the 12 years I've been here, have I heard of anything like this happening."
Mama Masala is described as an authentic Indian Tandoori Restaurant and Italian Pasta and Pizzeria.
Pal added: "We already have a successful sister restaurant in Derry, but I'm from Glengormley, and thought that it would be a good opportunity for the community to start a business here."
The restaurant took Pal and his business partner, Dil Singh, four months to get ready for opening, but they are determined not to let the attack stop them.
Pal added: "I do have a plan and we will be up and running again, the kitchen is still okay, and I don't want to let anyone down. I still have staff wages to pay, so in a couple of days, we will get back to operating our takeaway service.
"We have ordered more furniture and things from our suppliers, and lots of local people have come down to help me. So hopefully in two weeks' time, if the deliveries make it on time, we will be opening again then.
"I really want to just say thank you to the local people of Glengormley, for all of the help they gave me, there has been a lot of support."
Condemning those responsible, Alliance councillor John Blair said: "I have visited the owners, and this is absolutely devastating for them.
"I have offered my full support, anything that I can do as a councillor.
"We can take some comfort from the fact that this is not a regular occurrence, that does not, however, make this incident any less serious or devastating for the staff at the restaurant," he said.
The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service said it was made aware of the fire at 12.06am and dispatched two appliances from the Glengormley Fire Station.
It described the blaze as a "deliberate ignition".