RACISTS brought fear to the streets of Accrington today with a series of petrol bomb attacks.

The incidents prompted community leaders to appeal for calm in a bid to prevent a repeat of the Burnley race riots.

Hyndburn MP Greg Pope was today meeting police bosses to discuss the attacks and said he suspected people from outside town were responsible.

Home Secretary David Blunkett, who last night imposed a three-month ban on marches in the Burnley area following racist disturbances, today said he would consider a similar move in Accrington if approached by police and the council.

Petrol bombs were used in three separate attacks at Central Car Sales, in Hyndburn Road, Glynn Webb Wallpapers, in Oxford Street, and Sacred Heart School, in Bradshaw Row. All incidents took place between 8pm and 11pm last night.

They followed an earlier incident in Gloucester Road at 6pm when a car was set alight in what police Chief Supt John Thompson said was a racially motivated attack. Police said the attacks could have been prompted by the recent incidents in Burnley although there was no direct link.

Police said two Asian youths were seen running away from the incident, which caused minor damage to the vehicle.

The attacks come a week after Muslim graves were attacked at Accrington Cemetery but police said there was no direct evidence to link that incident to the firebombings. A team of detectives led by Detective Chief Inspector Steve Hartley has been set up and is to meet with the local authority and contacts in the community.

Mr Thompson said: "We believe that incidents at Sacred Heart and Glynn Webb are linked with the first incident at Gloucester Road.

"In light of this we now have reason to believe that a fire at Central Car Sales, Hyndburn Road, is also connected. It is highly likely that these crimes are isolated to a small number people and at this stage we do not know what there motive is. All the incidents are being fully investigated."

Station Officer Chris Hollis said: "These incidents are linked at this stage and we are working with the police who are investigating. A number of items of evidence have already been taken away."

The caretaker of Sacred Heart RC Primary School, Bradshaw Row, Church, said the petrol bomb was the latest in a long line of vandal attacks at the school.

Two firebombs were thrown through a reception classroom, incinerating a display of pupils' work and scorching the floor tiles.

Several windows have been replaced recently and the troublemakers have also ripped tiles off the roof.

The school was open as normal today.

Mr Bill Cross said: "We can move the pupils to a new room easily enough, but the whole thing has disgusted me.

"Why pick on a school? We have had so many problems recently, but this is by far the worst."

At the nearby Central Car Supermarket, Henry Street, Church, the arsonists hurled a petrol bomb over a high security fence and into the back seat of a Fiat Punto. It was destroyed and several cars around it were also damaged. Accountant David Johnson, said: "We have tight security here and we are surprised they managed to do this. There is dense wasteland behind us, which is hard to get across."

Staff at Glynn Webb DIY Store, off Blackburn Road, were also cleaning up today after a fire was started outside the shop and a brick hurled at a window.

Employee Darren Hall said: "We have had damage in the past but we have been told there was a lot of damage all over town last night."

Leader of Hyndburn Council Peter Britcliffe, said: "Obviously I am very concerned. What I would urge is that people remain calm and not over-react.

"We have an excellent record of race relations in Accrington, of which I am very proud."

Chairman of the Lancashire Council of Mosques Moulana Ahmed Sidat, said: "All leaders are working together with the police and the council to sort this out. We are appealing to all Asians and whites to calm down. We all need to work together to ensure our good relations continue."

Hyndburn MP Greg Pope said:" I am obviously concerned. I shall be looking at the areas involved today and I am already meeting the police later on. I have got a meeting with community leaders scheduled for tomorrow and will bring that forward to today if necessary.

"We have no history of racial tension in Accrington and my immediate instinct is that this must have been done by people outside the town."

Deputy Mayor of Burnley Coun Rafique Malik, who witnessed the trouble in his town first-hand, rejected the idea Burnley could have influenced last night's events.

He said it may have been a reaction to the desecration of Muslim graves in Accrington recently.

He added: "Obviously, I don't want to see what happened in Burnley happen in Accrington. I don't want to see that happen anywhere."