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Thursday, February 09, 2006

Church burnings strike South

Another church bites the dust

Churches burn as 'night riders' bring fear back to Deep South
By Tom Baldwin
Spectre of Ku Klux Klan is revived by nine arson attacks in deep South in a week

THEY came under cover of darkness like the “night riders” of the old Ku Klux Klan. They drove down the back roads of rural Alabama, looking for wooden churches in forest clearings. When they found them, they kicked in their doors and set them alight.

Four Baptist churches scattered ten or twenty miles around the tiny town of Boligee, near the Mississippi border, were burnt in this manner on Tuesday night. All had black congregations.

Last Friday five churches in Bibb County, farther to the east, were destroyed or badly damaged by fire. Of those, four had predominately white congregations and the fifth was mainly black.

The FBI confirmed yesterday that it was investigating whether the string of arson attacks during the past week had been racially motivated “hate crimes”.

“Obviously somebody or somebodies are interested in burning down churches. Whether it’s hate against a race or religion in general, we don’t know,” said Ragan Ingram, a spokesman for the state insurance agency that oversees fire investigations.

Chip Burrus, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s acting assistant director, said that investigators were working on the assumption that all nine fires were connected.

Nancy Nelson, an FBI special agent, went further, saying that the FBI was looking for evidence that this was a “civil rights violation — or hate crime”.

In a country with about 350,000 churches, such arson attacks are by no means uncommon. But in the Deep South of America they are always likely to cause fear.

But the fact is that whites are also scared, since the burnings seem to be random. There have been several spates of black church burnings over the years.

posted by Steve @ 12:34:00 AM

12:34:00 AM

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