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Firebombs Wreck Shops on Isle, Animal Rights Activists Suspected

August 24, 1994

LONDON (AP) _ Police suspect animal rights activists were behind the firebombing of four shops Wednesday on the Isle of Wight.

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

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.

No one has been arrested for the attacks, which caused about $3 million in damage.

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, and been implicated in thousands of crimes in Britain in recent years.

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, and army bomb disposal squads were called to investigate a suspicious package found in another store.

Four fire trucks were ferried over to help 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 cautiously around a 500-pound bomb dropped by a German plane during World War II.

Officials did not know 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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