Police on the small, predominately Muslim island of Zanzibar off the Tanzanian coast have stepped up investigations and arrested three suspects after two Catholic churches were destroyed and a small Protestant church was set ablaze in the recent spate of violence in mid October.
During the week of Oct. 17-23, three churches were attacked in Zanzibar. In the first attack, a Lutheran Church was set on fire earlier in the week. In the following attacks, which hit the Catholic Christian community, the wall of a Roman Catholic Church was destroyed and another was set on fire.
According to Roman Catholic Bishop Augustine Shao, it was not clear who had carried out the attacks. However, with the rising religious and political tension on the island, suspicion fell on Muslim extremists who some observers say may be seeking to drive from the archipelago people from mainland Tanzania before presidential and legislative elections expected at the end of next year. The last elections, in 2000, were marred by voter intimidation, politically motivated violence and other irregularities.
Sources say the three suspects arrested so far were brought before the Unguja Resident Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday. All three accused denied the charges and were remanded pending another mention of their case in two weeks’ time.
Meanwhile, police say they are looking for other suspects involved in the attacks and added that they hoped to make more arrests in the next few days.