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Police guard homes after firebomb attack

PUBLISHED: 10:18 02 October 2008 | UPDATED: 11:44 22 July 2010

LONSDALE SQUARE

LONSDALE SQUARE

POLICE were this week guarding one of Islington's most exclusive squares to protect shaken residents after the home of a controversial publisher was firebombed – allegedly by Islamic terrorists.

POLICE were this week guarding one of Islington's most exclusive squares to protect shaken residents after the home of a controversial publisher was firebombed - allegedly by Islamic terrorists.

The peace and quiet of leafy Lonsdale Square, Barnsbury - where houses cost

£2million - was shattered when several men tried to firebomb the home and office of Martin Rynja, owner of Gibson Square publishers.

The company is set to publish The Jewel of Medina, a novel about the prophet Mohammed taking a child bride, which has infuriated Muslim activists.

A petrol bomb was pushed through the letterbox of the house on Saturday morning and police - who arrested three men aged 22, 30 and 40 - have linked the attack to the book.

Mr Rynja has gone into hiding under police protection while investigations continue - but residents fear that, should he return, there might be another attack. One resident, who did not want to be named for fear of reprisals, said: "I am worried about it. But the police did an extremely good job, so that makes me feel safer. It was 2.45am when it happened and there was a large amount of noise and people shouting."

Neighbour Kevin Austin, 44, was awoken as police banged on his door. He said: "All we heard was someone outside forcefully shouting 'get on the ground, get on the ground'. Then they shouted 'stop struggling'. We heard a van door closing and cars speeding off."

Publishers Random House cancelled plans to publish the book after security experts warned the backlash could be worse than that resulting from the Mohammed cartoons row that led to worldwide rioting.

By Monday peace had returned to Lonsdale Square, but plain-clothed officers could still be seen scrutinising the square from a parked car.

Residents have been urged to be vigilant in case any further attacks are attempted.

A police spokeswoman said: "Officers are carrying out patrols in Lonsdale Square and its vicinity to provide reassurance. We will monitor the situation and do all we can to bring them to justice. Anybody who sees anything suspicious in Lonsdale Square should contact the anti-terrorist hotline on 0800 789 321."

It is not clear whether Mr Rynja was in the house at the time. He is a controversial figure, having already published Londonistan, a book by journalist Melanie Phillips about Islam in the capital.

Mr Rynja has argued that it is imperative to publish The Jewel of Medina to protect freedom of speech.

He said: "If a novel of quality that casts light on a beautiful subject cannot be published the clock has been turned back to the dark ages. The Jewel of the Medina is an important barometer of our time".

Police have until October 5 to charge the men arrested or apply for a longer custodial period.


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