Eight arrested for Tanzania church bomb

2013-05-07 17:39
Arusha blast

Arusha blast

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Arusha - Tanzanian police have arrested two more people bringing to eight the number of suspects held following a deadly bombing at a church in which three people died, officials said on Tuesday.

Four Tanzanians and four Saudis have been arrested in the wake of the bomb, one of the first such incidents in Tanzania, which President Jakaya Kikwete described as an "act of terrorism".

None of those arrested have yet been charged, said Arusha's governor Magesa Mulongo, updating the number of those killed to three, after one of the wounded died.

"We deplore the three deaths," he said, adding that around 40 people remain in hospital, three in a critical condition.

Officials have given no indication as to who might have carried out the attack, but tensions have been high between Tanzania's Christian and Muslim communities in recent months.

Officials have urged unity amongst Tanzanians.

"We must protect national unity, peace and tranquillity of our country at any costs," Internal Affairs Minister Emmanuel Nchimbi said Monday.

The blast occurred outside Saint Joseph's Roman Catholic church in Arusha, a town popular with tourists visiting the popular Serengeti national park and snowcapped Mount Kilimanjaro.

The newly built church, in the Olasti district on the outskirts of Arusha, was celebrating its first ever mass at the time of the attack, and people were squeezed into the church building as well as sitting on benches outside.

Call for calm

The Vatican's ambassador to Tanzania, Archbishop Francisco Montecillo Padilla, was attending mass at the church but was not harmed.

Kikwete, who said he was "shocked and deeply saddened" by the incident, called on people to remain calm while police investigated the attacks.

In February, a Catholic priest was shot dead outside his church on the largely Muslim archipelago of Zanzibar, the second such killing in recent months. A church was also set on fire on Zanzibar in February.

In March, 52 followers of controversial Muslim cleric Sheikh Ponda Issa Ponda were jailed for a year for riots in October in the commercial capital Dar es Salaam, sparked by rumours that a 12-year-old boy at a Christian school had urinated on a copy of the Qur'an.

Around half of Tanzanians are believed to be Christian, and around a third of the population to be Muslim, although there are no official figures.

In neighbouring Kenya - whose troops invaded southern Somalia in 2011, prompting warnings of revenge by the al-Qaeda linked Shabaab insurgents - several churches have been targeted in attacks similar to the Arusha blast.

While Tanzania does not have troops in Somalia, it is home to Islamist groups connected to radical groups in the wider region including the Shabaab, according to United Nations experts.

Read more on:    tanzania  |  east africa

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