Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Tanzania: Terrorist Bomb Kills 3, Wounds 58 in Arusha, Bombers Were from Saudi, Tanzania

According to Business Day Live, Tanzanian police arrested six people on Monday (May 6), including several Saudi nationals, over a deadly bombing at a Catholic Church Mass that President Jakaya Kikwete described as an "act of terrorism."

Three people were killed and 64 wounded in the attack on the church in the northern town of Arusha on Sunday (May 5), one of the first such incidents in Tanzania.

Four of those arrested are from Saudi Arabia and two from Tanzania, as police search for others linked to the bombing. The Saudis had arrived in Arusha only on Saturday (May 4).

The blast occurred outside Saint Joseph’s Roman Catholic church in Arusha, a town popular with tourists visiting the popular Serengeti National Park and snow-capped 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.

COMMENT: The Vatican’s ambassador to Tanzania, Archbishop Francisco Montecillo Padilla, was attending Mass at the church but was unharmed.

As background, in February, a Catholic priest was shot and killed outside of 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 after a year of rioting in October 2012, in the commercial capital of Dar es Salaam, sparked by rumors that a 12-year-old boy at a Christian school had urinated on a copy of the Koran.

Ponda is the head of Jumuiya ya wa Islamu, or the "Community of Islam," a group not recognized by the Tanzanian government.

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

The bombing is a sobering reminder to foreign tourists that bombings can occur anywhere around the world, which is why we urge all of our readers to enroll in Red Cross first aid and CPR classes.