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Firebombs Wreck Four Shops on English Isle

August 24, 1994

LONDON (AP) _ Firebombs wrecked several shops today on the Isle of Wight.

No one claimed responsibility, but police were investigating the involvement of animal rights extremists, implicated in thousands of crimes in Britain in recent years.

″No person nor group has claimed responsibility for the fire attacks on the shops,″ said Pete Young, spokesman for the Hampshire police.

There have been no arrests, but ″the attacks on the premises have all the hallmarks of similar previous attacks (by animal rights groups). It’s been happening for years. It just happened to be the Isle of Wight’s turn,″ Young said.

Animal rights activism in Britain ranges from blanket advertising to disruptions at horse races and fox hunts.

Campaigners fill underground train stations with advertisements intended to shock people about the treatment of animals, at times prompting businesses to alter their practices.

Last week, British Airways announced it would stop flying live sheep destined for ritual slaughter in Saudi Arabia, following tabloid newspaper coverage and objections from animal rights groups.

But they have resorted to violence, too. The pharmacy, sporting goods store, leather boutique and charity shop raising funds for cancer research bombed on the Isle of Wight were all possible targets of activists protesting the use of animals in laboratory research and their pelts in the fashion industry.

A fifth bomb, in a fishing-tackle store, failed to explode.

The attacks caused about $3 million in damage.

Four fire trucks were ferried to the island to help local firefighters battle the blazes on the island, a magnet for tourists, about 70 miles southwest of London.

On the mainland, a British army bomb squad was digging carefully around a 500-pound bomb dropped by a German plane during World War II.

Officials could not tell whether the bomb was still capable of exploding, but evacuated about 800 people from homes close to the site near Sheffield, 160 miles north of London. The bomb was unearthed Tuesday.

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