Extremists accused in attacks on Novartis chief

In a frightening turn of events for Novartis chief Daniel Vasella, extremists have not only set fire to his vacation home in the Tyrol, but desecrated his mother's grave. Law enforcement in Austria and Switzerland suspect animal rights groups in the attacks, but investigators cautioned that their work has only just begun.

It took 100 firefighters to extinguish the flames at the lodge in Bach, Austria, the Telegraph reports. Meanwhile, last week, an urn containing his mother's ashes was stolen from a Swiss cemetery, and the gravestone painted with graffiti saying "Drop HLS now." HLS is the U.K. animal research firm Huntingdon Life Sciences, which has drawn fire from activists for years now.

The latest incidents follow a string of suspicious events, the company said, including a fire at a company-owned tennis club near headquarters in Basel. Employees have found car windows smashed, and even discovered crude incendiary devices under their vehicles. Luckily, none of the devices actually exploded, and no one has been hurt, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Swiss info reports that the attacks follow the M.O. of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, an animal-rights group that has been targeting HLS. Austrian police told the news service that they were investigating SHAC in the fire at Vasella's hunting lodge, and said they were "probably" dealing with a criminal act--arson. A Novartis security official told the WSJ that he suspects animal-rights activists in the recent attacks because of "telltale slogans" left at the sites. A SHAC volunteer, however, denied any involvement in the latest incidents.

- see the story at SwissInfo
- read the news from the Telegraph
- get the Wall Street Journal article