Blast, arson attack on two primary schools

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A hand-made explosive device caused extensive damage at a Limassol primary school pre-dawn on Thursday, while a Nicosia village school was the target of arsonists, with evidence suggesting links to anti-maskers.

Police have not ruled the incidents could be linked to recent demonstrations organised by parent groups against a government mask mandate at primary schools to curb a wave of COVID-19 infections.

Authorities said the improvised explosive device placed at a primary school in Zakaki, Limassol, had gone off at around 1.30 am. The premises was empty at the time.

A second device at the same school had failed to explode.

Extensive damage was caused by the explosion, as doors and windows were smashed, while a nearby church also suffered damages.

In comments to the Cyprus News Agency, the president of the parents association, Michalis Savvides, said he does not comprehend why someone would want to place explosives at the school.

Asked if he thought the incident could be linked to anti-mask demonstrations, Savvides said that they were not in a position to know.

“We have not encountered any issues in recent days related to the mask mandate.

“Everything has been calm at our school.”

Savvides dismissed any possibility that parents of children at the school were behind the attack.

Later Thursday, a fire broke out at the Deftera primary school in Nicosia, which will remain closed.

Firefighters and police officers responding to the call found a slogan in red spray paint reading “hands off our children, traitors” written at the school entrance.

In comments to the Cyprus News Agency, fire service spokesperson Andreas Kettis said two fire engines responded around 7 am and extinguished the blaze, which destroyed the stage at the event hall of the school.

Indications are the fire was set maliciously, Kettis said.

Second device

Regarding the Limassol primary school explosion, the deputy spokesperson of Limassol Police Department, Marinos Vassiliou, said the “explosion was caused by a metal cylindrical explosive device, which was placed at the entrance of a classroom.”

The blast also caused damage to both the hall and windows of the church of St. Barbara, opposite the school.

Vassiliou said investigators found a second metal cylindrical explosive device that was triggered but did not explode.

Asked whether the second explosive device was larger than the one that exploded, Vassiliou replied: “It seems that the cylindrical object is large, but we cannot calculate the damage it could cause if it had exploded.”

Police are going through CCTV footage and will be talking to neighbours.

The suspect arson and bomb attack came after some parents took to the streets to protest against a mask and testing mandate at primary schools.

On Monday, when the measures began, another explosive device was placed outside the Limassol district offices of the Education Ministry.

Teacher unions reported that their members have been receiving threats from parents objecting to their kids wearing masks and getting tested weekly.

The government imposed mandatory mask-wearing for children over six, as COVID-19 cases were on the rise in schools, especially primary schools, where a mask mandate was not enforced.

On Wednesday, the head of the government’s COVID track and trace team, Valentinos Sylvestros, told MPs that the number of cases reported in primary schools four weeks ago was 123, while 313 cases were confirmed last week.