A vicar today told how he was chased from his blazing church by a gang of masked thugs hurling stones and chanting racist abuse.

The Reverend Tony Tooby "thanked God" that St Phillip's Church in Thorn Street, Girlington, did not burn down after the attack by the group of around 50 Asian youths who broke in through the front door.

The 43-year-old spotted youths running in and out of his church as he delivered wood for a bonfire around 7pm yesterday.

Fearing for his safety he sped off in his Toyota Yaris, parked up and rang the police on his mobile phone.

But to his horror he spotted a hate-filled mob coming towards him shouting racist abuse.

He said: "I could see them behind me and they'd obviously spotted my mobile phone because I was holding it up to my ear.

"They were shouting abuse. I thought they were going to get me.

"I said to the police down the phone that I was being attacked and then suddenly there was a crash and my back windscreen went through.

"I put my head down, drove up the road and down a few back s streets to escape them. I met a police car at some traffic lights and told them my church was under attack."

Police are hunting the gang of Asian youths - who fled the church by the time officers arrived - and are treating it as a racially motivated incident.

It is understood to be the latest in a line of attacks against the church including the front door being vandalised a number of times.

Today the Bishop of Bradford, the Right Reverend David Smith, condemned the attack and said the gang was around 50 strong.

"I was appalled to receive news of the attack on St Phillip's Church in Girlington, and also on the vicar's car. I am equally dismayed to hear of the race abuse hurled at the vicar. The perpetrators of this violence bring their community into disrepute and give no satisfaction at all to those who are working for racial harmony in Bradford."

Today Bary Malik, president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Mosque condemned the attack as "an un-Islamic act".

"As a Muslim I am very upset by this. Anyone who attacks a place of worship is a desperately sick person. Islam states very, very clearly, you have respect for other faiths."

The team rector in neighbouring Manningham, the Reverend George Moffat, said he was aware St Phillip's Church had been under attack from members of its local community.

"We have been aware of the stress Tony Tooby has been facing and the dangers to his church, but none of us had any idea it would come to this," he said.

"Fifty youths is a substantial number and this can't have been an off-the-cuff thing," he said.

"We are very sad about this and hope to redeem it by speaking to Mosque elders. You can't have one community so dominating another its youths feel they can do this. Respect must go both ways. The problem is that some of these youths are out of control of anybody."

He called on senior Muslims to immediately speak out against the attack on St Phillip's.

"Local mosques must support them in their hour of need. There's got to be public recognition and condemnation of this kind of violence. Otherwise it could be replicated across Bradford and you will then have a pretty dire situation."

Inspector David Holdsworth, of Bradford North police, said: "This was a despicable attack on a local community church at a time when police officers and fire officers were at full stretch protecting the public."

Any information should be passed to Bradford North police on (01274) 376059.

Frontline Bradford: Riots and Race Review