VILNIUS - Four Lithuanian guest workers were forced to leave their home after local racists attacked them with a petrol bomb. Two men and two women were in the house at Millburn Park, Cookstown, when a device was hurled at the front window in the early hours of April 20.
The victims of the attack, including a young woman who is eight months pregnant, barely escaped injury after the firebomb failed to penetrate the window of their residence. A car belonging to one of the occupants was destroyed by fire.
This was the third time that the Lithuanians, who have lived in the house for just a month, have been targeted. Police believe the attack was racially motivated and have asked anyone with information to come forward. The occupants did not want to be identified but said they would be moving away from the area.
"We don't feel welcome here," one of the Lithuanians said. "We have been in Cookstown for half a year but only since we moved to this neighbourhood these things have started to happen."
He said that he felt lucky to be alive and described the terrifying moments after the bomb was thrown at their house: "I was upstairs when it all happened," he said. "I heard a bang at the window and saw my car on fire."
The guest workers are all in their early 20s and came to Northern Ireland seeking work. The mostly Protestant town of Cookstown has a population of 3,531, most of whom are employed in the linen industry or trade in agricultural produce.
Cookstown District Council Member Peter Cassidy told The Baltic Times that the attack, according to local rumors, could have been retaliation for the killing of a young Irishman in the neighboring town of Dungannon on Easter. Shaun Fitzpatrick, a 32-year old local store manager, was mercilessly beaten to death off the Donaghmore Road in Dungannon. Police have charged two men, aged 21 and 24, with the killing.
Cassidy said the motives of the killing were unknown but that some Lithuanian guest workers were allegedly involved in the murder. It is unknown, however, whether the Lithuanians targeted by the firebombers in Cookstown had anything to do with the Dungannon killing.
The Dungannon criminal investigations department refused to reveal the names of the suspects detained in connection with the killing of Shaun Fitzpatrick. Michael McAdoo, a detective with the Dungannon police, could only confirm that the prime suspects are believed to be of Lithuanian origin.
Cassidy said the fact that the Lithuanians are Roman Catholic has nothing to do with attacks against them.
"Everyone is entitled to live their life without intimidation and fear, but things happen between youngsters. Once in a while you come across a bad apple in any community," said Cassidy.