Northern Ireland

Pakistani men attacked in north Belfast plan to leave NI

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Media captionMuhammad Asif Khattak said he had been warned by friends not to go to Northern Ireland

Two men targeted in a racist attack at their north Belfast home on Sunday have left their home and said they plan to leave Northern Ireland.

One of the Pakistani men was treated in hospital after being attacked at the house in Parkmount Street.

Earlier a north Belfast pastor who made controversial comments about Muslims visited the men.

James McConnell said he had told them there was "no justification for such an attack" whatever their religion.

One of the men, Muhammad Asif Khattak, said he had been warned by friends not to leave London to go to Northern Ireland.

"I'm regretting what happened to me. The friends told me yesterday 'we were right what we told you before, not to go, not to leave London'," he said.

Mr McConnell said he had offered to help pay for damage caused to their home on Sunday.

Last month, the pastor described Islam as "heathen" and "satanic", and said he did not trust Muslims.

Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson came under fire for defending Mr McConnell's remarks, telling the Irish News he would not trust Muslims involved in violence or those devoted to Sharia law.

However, the DUP leader said he would "trust them to go to the shops" for him. Mr Robinson later said his remarks had been misinterpreted, and met Muslim leaders in Belfast to apologise.

Image caption Pastor James McConnell said he was appalled by the attack

Mr McConnell, of the Metropolitan Tabernacle church in north Belfast, said he had told the two men he was appalled by the incident at Parkmount Street on Sunday.

The church said in a statement: "A very profitable discussion took place about how the pastor has reached out to all sides of this community for over 60 years and he will continue to do so."

Meanwhile, figures show the number of hate crimes reported to the police in Northern Ireland increased by 30% in the last year.

In the 12 months from 2012 to 2013, 750 racist incidents were reported. That went up to 982 last year.

The figures also show that the police only solve one in five hate crimes. In England that figure is over 50%.

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