Racists may have started fire at Bristol Somali office

Bristol Post: The offices of a newspaper [and community organisations] serving Bristol’s Somali community have been devastated in what is thought to have been a racially-motivated arson attack.

The Somali Voice, [Elays Development Network] and CAN (Community Action Network) base on Stapleton Road, Easton, was set alight in the early hours of Wednesday and the voluntary organisation’s two computers, desks, chairs and paperwork were destroyed.

Thousands of pounds worth of damage was caused in what investigators believe was a malicious attack on the bilingual, monthly publication set up to help the Somali community in Bristol.

The offices were also home to the Easton Advice and Advocacy Centre, which was also damaged.

Somali Voice editor Kayse Maxamed said: “It’s very sad and very, very difficult for the community because a lot of people come here for help.

“There has been a lot of damage. We are all volunteers, we do not get funding, and have been renting the office for about three months.

“We’ve been trying our best to help the community and a lot of people are very upset about what has happened. But we are determined to carry on.”

Mr Maxamed said the newspaper had been the victim of some hostility recently.

No decision has yet been made on where the paper will be made in the future and staff will try their best to get July’s edition out on the streets.

“I’d appeal for the community to contact the police if they know who may have done this or if they saw anything suspicious,” he said. “This has not only damaged the Somali Voice, but the whole community.”

The Somali Voice is a free publication. It has a website, http://www.thesomalivoice.co.uk, and aims to “provide a voice that represents Somali communities in the UK and bridges the gap between governmental, non-governmental agencies and Somali communities across the country”.

Two fire appliances from Temple fire station extinguished the fire after a call at 2am yesterday. Throughout the day fire investigators and scenes of crime police officers looked for a possible cause.

Avon and Somerset police spokesman Simon Whitby said: “I can confirm we are looking into the possibility that this incident was racially motivated.

“The fire was started deliberately and we would ask anyone who saw anything suspicious in the area, between 1am and 2am to contact us.”

Witnesses should call the police on 0845 456 7000 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111

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