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Moscow 'car arsonist' strikes again

MOSCOW, June 4 (RIA Novosti) - Another vehicle was torched in the early hours of Wednesday in Moscow, the emergencies ministry said, as a notorious car arsonist remained at large in the Russian capital.

A ministry spokesman said a Hyundai minivan caught fire at around 4 a.m. [midnight GMT] in eastern Moscow, and a firefighting team that arrived at the scene extinguished the blaze within 15 minutes.

Moscow police are searching for a prolific arsonist believed to be responsible for setting fire to over 20 cars in the past four days in several residential areas, a Russian tabloid reported on Tuesday.

Komsomolskaya Pravda said the spree began last Thursday night, when a number of cars were set on fire in Butovo, southern Moscow. Most of the cars were parked near garbage dumps outside apartment blocks.

The paper quoted a police officer as saying: "We believe that the same culprit was at work in Butovo, Golyanovo, Krylatskoye, Ivanovskoye, and Yasenevo."

"The hallmarks of the crimes are the same: late in the evening a person picks out flammable materials from dumpsters, sets up bonfires under the car wheels, douses them with charcoal lighter fuel, sets them alight, and then runs away."

Russian papers have published a police photofit of the suspect, based on eyewitness descriptions. Two residents of the Kaliningrad Region were earlier detained in the case, but were soon released due to a lack of evidence.

Police said most of the cars set fire to were grey, and that several of them were expensive foreign cars, including a BMW and an Audi.

Komsomolskaya Pravda quoted the police department in southwest Moscow as saying the culprit may be a schizophrenic, and could be registered at a psychiatric ward in the city.

"We reached this conclusion by studying footage from surveillance cameras in residential courtyards, and from talking to eyewitnesses," an officer said.

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