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Bombs explode Zanzibar calm as religious tensions flare

A view of Stone Town, Zanzibar with the Zanzibar flag in the foreground.

(RNS) After months of calm in Zanzibar, two homemade bombs exploded Monday (Feb. 24) near St. Monica Anglican Cathedral and the Mercury restaurant, a popular hangout for tourists visiting the Indian Ocean archipelago.

A view of Stone Town, Zanzibar with the Zanzibar flag in the foreground.

Photo courtesy of Fanny Schertzer, via Wikimedia Commons

A view of Stone Town, Zanzibar, with the Zanzibar flag in the foreground

No one was hurt, but one day earlier, four people were injured in another explosion, targeting an Assemblies of God church.

The attacks are blamed on the secessionist Uamsho, a religious group pressing for the full autonomy of the archipelago.  Uamsho, which means “awakening” in Swahili, is also known as the Association for Islamic Mobilization and Propagation.

“The bomb blasts have caused a lot fear among Christians here,” said Zanzibar Anglican Bishop Michael Hafidh. “We are very concerned.”

With the increasing attacks, church leaders say they believe the assailants want to frighten non-Muslims to leave.

The semiautonomous archipelago off the coast of Tanzania is mostly Muslim, and assailants have targeted churches, burning some and killing or severely injuring Christian clerics.

Last February, a Roman Catholic priest, the Rev. Evaristus Mushi, was killed by unknown gunmen, while in September, another Catholic priest, the Rev. Anselmo Mwang’amba, was seriously injured when attackers splashed him with acid.

In August, two British teens volunteering with a local church nursery school suffered severe burns in a similar acid attack.

“This is not the first time churches have been targeted,” said Hafidh. “I think the attackers are people who do not want us here.”

YS/MG END NZWILI

About the author

Fredrick Nzwili

Fredrick Nzwili is a journalist based in Nairobi, Kenya. For more than 15 years, he has written about religion, politics, peace and conflict, development, security, environment and wildlife. His articles have appeared in international media organizations among others; The Tablet, The Christian Science Monitor, The National Geographic and Kenyan local newspapers; The Standard and the People Daily.

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