Hate crime probe after men attacked
Two men have been assaulted in a suspected hate crime at their home after reporting an earlier racist incident.
Muhammad Asif Khattak, originally from Pakistan, was attacked this afternoon in his house on Parkmount Street in north Belfast along with a friend who also lives there.
The assaults happened after the housemates reported to police that a front window of the property had been smashed with a bottle at about 3am this morning.
It prompted Mr Khattak to speak out, claiming he no longer felt safe to go outside.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland said detectives were treating the initial vandalism as a hate crime and, following that, at 3.15pm this afternoon one of the men was racially abused outside their home.
A police spokesman said a group of people on the street subjected a 24-year-old man to racist taunts and one man in the group attacked him and forced his way into the house with another man.
Both Mr Khattak and his housemate were then attacked inside the property. One of the men was taken to hospital for treatment to an injured foot and minor cuts and bruises. Police are treating the assaults as a hate crime and appealed for anyone who was in the area and witnessed the incident to contact them.
The racist attacks are the latest in a series of incidents of intimidation and assaults which have plagued ethnic minorities living in some parts of Northern Ireland, particularly Belfast in recent weeks and months.
Among them was an attack 10 days ago on a Jamaican family in Rathcoole, north Belfast.
They also come in the wake of an apology from Stormont First Minister Peter Robinson over controversial remarks he made about members of the Islamic faith.
The DUP leader had sparked criticism from the muslim community after speaking out in support of anti-Islamic evangelical preacher James McConnell.
Yesterday, Belfast city centre came to a standstill when 4,000 people attended an anti-racism rally with a similar demonstration also held in Londonderry after Alliance MLA Anna Lo warned she would quit politics because of ongoing racist abuse directed at her from some loyalists.
Organisers of the Belfast rally said they wanted people to come together to show solidarity with migrant groups and ethnic minorities in the city.
Nigel Dodds, DUP MP for North Belfast where the latest racist attacks took place, condemned the incidents.
"This attack like all the others on homes in north Belfast is utterly disgraceful," he said.
"There is no justification for any attack on an individual or their home whatever the religion, lifestyle, or ethnicity of the person concerned.
"The perpetrators of such attacks are cowardly and I would urge anyone with any information about those behind this attack to contact the police so that they can be brought to justice."
Sinn Fein MLA for North Belfast Gerry Kelly said the attack on the men was cowardly and shameful.
"It's vital that political leaders right across the community stand up against those involved in hate crime whether those crimes are sectarian or racist in character," he said.
"People should be able to get on with their lives free from fear and intimidation."