Melbourne crime: Another tobacco store set on fire likely linked to ongoing crime war

A tobacco store was set alight in a targeted attack police believe is related to a spate of tobacco store fires over the past 12 months.

Fire and police services were called to the Free Choice Tobacconist on Pier St, Altona in Melbourne’s south west about 4am after the alleged arson was witnessed by members of the public.

Police believe the arsonists threw jerry cans through the smashed front window of the shop before setting it alight.

Victoria Police believe the attack is related to the battle of organised crime groups for control of the illicit cigarette trade in the state.

Witnesses reported the fire, allowing fire crews to quickly extinguish the blaze with only minor damage sustained to the store.

A white ute was also found set alight in a carpark off Altona Rd within a five-minute drive of the shop.

Police are investigating if the two incidents are linked.

Since March 2023, more than 30 businesses in Victoria have been targeted by arsonists with the vast majority of those businesses being tobacco stores, as well as a small number of gyms and restaurants in an alleged ongoing crime war between rival parties.

Anyone who witnessed the fire or noticed any suspicious activity is urged to contact Crime Stoppers.

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