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The doors of two churches within about a mile of each other in east London were almost destroyed in a series of arson attacks with an apparently satanic motive.

In the space of two days, attackers lit fires outside the doors of four churches near Stratford, including one where a children’s playgroup was taking place in the church hall.

At each church, apparently occult symbols and messages including pentagrams, spirals, the number 666 and the word “hell” were etched into the doors.

“We thought someone’s got it against the church or our church, or Christianity or religion,” said John Edney, the secretary of Cann Hall and Harrow Green Baptist church, where two fires were lit.

Police said they were keeping an open mind about the motive.

The series of attacks began on Tuesday night at St John’s on Stratford Broadway, which had already been vandalised recently when doors were scratched and posters outside were torn down. A small fire lit outside a door there overnight had been extinguished by the time police attended the scene on Wednesday morning.

Less than half an hour later police were called to Cann Hall church, about a mile and a half away in Leytonstone. One woman had smelled smoke and found a small fire, apparently fuelled by rubbish from a nearby wheelie bin, burning just outside the church hall door. The door had been etched with a pentagram, and church officials discovered the word “hell” etched on the main door to the chapel.

Another small fire was started on Wednesday night at the Church of Jesus Christ Apostolic on Ramsay Road, five minutes’ walk from Cann Hall Road. Less than an hour later, police and firefighters rushed back to Cann Hall church where a fire had taken hold on the main doors, scorching all of one side as flames reached the stone mantle. Read more

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