Masked gang torch radio station in Zanzibar

Zanzibar Stone Town
Zanzibar Stone Town

Zanzibar - Masked men torched a radio station in Zanzibar on Thursday, police said, amid negotiations to strike a political deal on Tanzania's semi-autonomous islands after elections were scrapped.

The gang of around 15 men broke into the privately-owned Hits FM radio station in the early hours of Thursday morning, dousing the broadcast equipment in fuel before setting fire to it.

"It was swift action, lasting about 15 minutes - they covered my face including mouth with a piece of cloth, and ordered me not to say anything," said radio journalist Ali Abdalla.

Zanzibar has experienced sectarian and political tensions in recent years - including recent grenade explosions - with the unrest affecting the islands' key tourist industry.

"We have launched an investigation and a hunt for the thugs," senior police officer Salum Msangi said, adding the motive for the attack was not clear.

Zanzibar's electoral commission ruled that the October 25 vote on the islands - where the 500 000 registered voters also cast ballots for Tanzania's national president - must be carried out again, citing "violations of electoral law".

Despite the cancellation on the islands, new Tanzanian President John Magufuli has been sworn into office, while on the islands, Zanzibar President Ali Mohamed Shien of the long-ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) remains in power until fresh polls.

The annulment came after a key candidate, Seif Sharif Hamad of the opposition Civic United Front (CUF), declared himself the winner before the results were officially announced.

No date has been set for new elections.

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