Two British teenage girls, volunteering on the island of Zanzibar, were victims of a horrific attack by Muslims in which acid was splashed in their faces, leaving them both burned “beyond imagination”. The 18-year old girls, Kirstie Trup and Katie Gee, were both working for Art in Tanzania and were said to have been dressed respectfully, complete with head coverings and long sleeves. They were walking along the road near the island’s main city, Stone Town, when men on a motorcycle splashed acid across their faces, chests and hands. Zanzibar has been the site of repeated clashes with the police by a radical Muslim group in recent years, where tension has increased between local Muslims and Christians. Police believe this is an isolated incident, not a sign of more violence to come.
But even before this, Katie Gee posted on her Facebook page that she had been assaulted in the street by a Muslim woman for singing on Ramadan. They had been warned not to do anything which revealed their Jewish heritage on the largely Muslim island, even the authorities are surprised at the attack on foreign aid workers. Zanzibar relies on the tourist trade, which such an attack will clearly negatively impact.
Mkadam Khamis, regional police commissioner in Zanzibar, said that five men were in custody, although they had not been arrested or charged. He said that they were cooperating and answering questions and it may lead to arrests in the near future. Following questioning, all five were released. While it’s not completely clear of the motives for the attack, the leading theory is that radical Muslims who belong to the group Uamsho, want to impose strict Islamic moral codes on Zanzibar may be targeting Westerners and that has local people worried. A Muslim Imam, Sheikh Issa Ponda Issa, who was distributing anti-Christian literature, ran from police when they tried to question him about the incident and was shot trying to escape. Police say they will interrogate him when he’s sufficiently recovered in the hospital.
Tory MP Bill Cash says “People need to be extra vigilant and the Foreign Office and High Commission need to make a very thorough evaluation of the threat, as these latest attacks would seem to be on religious grounds.”
Police are offering a reward of 10 million Tanzanian shillings for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the attackers.
But come on, we can’t criticize Islam, can we? It’s the religion of peace and would never, ever, ever hurt anyone! Tell that to Kirstie Trup and Katie Gee.