By BosNewsLife Africa Service
DAR ES SALAAM, TANZANIA (BosNewsLife)– Tanzania’s president has expressed concern over religious tensions amid reports that several Christians were slightly injured in bomb attacks targeting churches and other sites on the semi-autonomous, and mainly Muslim, Zanzibar islands.
Jakaya Kikwete said the tensions “threaten peace” in his nation of 45 million people, while police pledged to investigate the bombings.
In one of the latest attacks carried out by suspected Islamic militants, a bomb rocked the entrance of Christ Church Cathedral, on Monday, February 24. Church officials said the bomb, detonated remotely, did no damage to the Anglican church building in the historic city center known as Stone Town.
Police reportedly detained one person, but no name was immediately released.
A bomb also rocked nearby Mercury’s, a restaurant named after Freddie Mercury, the late lead singer of the rock group Queen who was born in Zanzibar, according to investigators.
Earlier on Sunday, February 23, a bomb exploded near the door of the Evangelistic Assemblies of God Zanzibar (EAGZ) church building on in Kijito Upele-Fuoni, outside Zanzibar City, just before the end of the service, Christians said.
A loud blast reportedly shook the building on the island 16 miles (25 kilometers) off the coast of Tanzania, causing minor injuries to several church members.
The latest violence came after a mob invaded the Sunday service of a Pentecostal Evangelism Fellowship of Africa (PEFA) in the Kisauni with the intention of killing the senior pastor, Christians said. An angry crowd reportedly beat up a visiting clergyman after failing to find him.
Local Christians also said they have received threats via text message or in leaflets naming church leaders who have been targeted for assassination.
Additionally at least 20 churches have been looted and either burnt or demolished by mobs in recent months, activists said.
Two Christian leaders were killed in Zanzibar last year in separate attacks and there have been arson attacks on churches. In September, a Roman Catholic priest was the target of an acid attack, while a month earlier
two men threw a corrosive liquid over two British teenagers in Zanzibar.
The incidents have hit Tanzania’s image as a tourist-friendly destination, hurting a vital industry, analysts say.
Although police are investigating the attacks, perpetrators of previous incidents of religious violence have yet to be brought to justice even when identified or caught in the act, and investigations are generally extended indefinitely, complained rights group Christian Solidarity Worldwide.
Rights activists say the bomb blasts come while Tanzania’s political parties prepare for elections in which a key issue will be the relationship between the mainland and the Zanzibar archipelago in the Indian Ocean.
A Zanzibari separatist group Uamsho (Awakening) is calling for an end to the union and for Zanzibar to become an independent, heavily Muslim, nation. (With reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos).