Denied to use bathroom, he attacked NY

New York: A 40-year old unemployed truck driver, who threw molotov cocktails at five places, including a Hindu temple and an Islamic centre, was upset at being denied entry to use its bathroom and being thrown out of a convenience store. Ray Lazier Lengend has been charged with arson, arson as hate crime and criminal possession of a weapon in connection with the firebombings on January 1, police said here.

Lengend, a naturalised US citizen from Guyana, had confessed to attacking the five locations with firebombs over the weekend, citing personal grudges. He was arrested after the police tracked down his car that was seen at the site of the attacks through surveillance cameras as well identified by few witnesses, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.

He first attacked the convenience store as he was upset that he was thrown out after being caught stealing a Starbucks bottle and milk last month. In the other incident, he targeted the wrong house on a street in Queens from where he said he had once purchased crack cocaine.

He attacked the Islamic centre as he was upset over being denied entry to use its bathroom. He had even made "sweeping anti-Muslim statements," against the Islamic centre. He targeted a house in Elmont over claims of a familial problem. His final attack was on a residence that housed a small Hindu temple as a person against whom he once had a grudge had lived there.

"This is terrible. And to just throw bombs when you don`t even know who`s inside, that`s wrong. That`s wrong and it`s not right for Queens".

While no one was injured in any of the attacks, property was damaged. About 80 people were inside the Islamic centre at the time of the attack. "We were a little bit anxious and a bit nervous in the beginning because we weren`t sure. But now after having seen all the support that we have been receiving it is very reassuring," said Al-Khoei Foundation UN Representative Meesam Razvi.

Imam at the Al-Khoei centre Maan Al-Sahlani said, "We are one family. If one gets hurt, all the family gets hurt. So, we have to be shoulder to shoulder".

Kelly had termed the attacks "a heinous type of crime, particularly when people are sleeping in their homes". In a statement distributed at the meeting between Bloomberg and religious leaders, the Muslim Peace Coalition-USA said an anti-Islam and anti-Muslim campaign had "made Islamophobia politically acceptable in America". It highlighted attempts by the police "to keep the whole Muslim community under warrantless surveillance".

Last month a group of Muslim leaders had boycotted a meeting with Bloomberg citing anger over New York police and federal agents spying on mosques and Muslim community centres to garner information on Muslims. Lengend also claimed responsibility for three other firebombings against homes in Queens between December 26 and this week, which the police is now investigating.

Lengend has had run-ins with the law previously, including arrests on charges of drug possession, grand larceny and possession of bad checks, police said. "The individual is implicating himself in each of the five firebombing cases, citing personal grievances with each location," police spokesman Paul Browne said.

Kelly said as Lengend was kicked out of the convenience store in December for trying to steal a glass Starbucks bottle and milk, witnesses reported he made threats as he was escorted out. "When they were pushing him out of the store, he said words to the effect that `We`re going to get even. We`re going to get back at you,`" Kelly said.

The attacks caused outrage among city officials and inter-faith leaders who said such incidents should not be tolerated and the guilty be brought to justice.

In a show of support, city Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Kelly joined several Muslim, Jewish and Christian representatives at the Imam Al-Khoei Foundation centre, which was one of the targets, for a news briefing on Tuesday morning. "As I said before, we don`t know what the motive was," Bloomberg told reporters. "But in New York City, as you know, we have no tolerance for violence, and certainly no tolerance for discrimination".

Bloomberg said whether it was a "senseless violence or a hate crime… in either case, we`re just not going to tolerate it in this city". Queens Borough President Helen Marshall said the person responsible for the attacks "must be punished to fullest extent of the law".