Northern Ireland

Arson attack on Ballymena home treated as a hate crime

A South African man's home has been substantially damaged in an arson attack in Ballymena.

The fire at the flat on the Galgorm Road was reported at about 18:40 BST on Sunday. It was empty at the time.

Racist graffiti was also painted on the building and PSNI officers said they were treating it as a hate crime.

SDLP councillor Declan O'Loan said the attack "could easily have led to loss of life" and he urged the police to investigate it as attempted murder.

"It is important that we send out the message that this kind of behaviour is unacceptable in Ballymena.

"The best way to do that is to apprehend the culprits and put them before the courts," he said.

The councillor added that there were "several thousand people from other countries" who played a valued part in the local community.

"We need to reassure them that they are welcomed in Ballymena," Mr O'Loan said.