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Zanzibar, Tanzania -
Police in Zanzibar said on Monday they had so far detained 15 people, some of them radical Islamists, in connection with recent acid attacks against a local Catholic priest and two British tourists.
The police commissioner on the semi-autonomous Tanzanian archipelago, Mussa Ali Mussa, said some of the suspects were youths who were seeking to leave the area and join up with Somalia's al-Qaeda-inspired Al-Shabaab fighters.
Last week an elderly priest, Amselmo Mwangamba, was burned by acid thrown on his face, chest and arms, as he walked on the streets of Stone Town, Zanzibar's historical centre.
Last month, two young British women were doused with acid thrown by men on a motorcycle, prompting Zanzibari officials to offer a $6 000 reward.
“We are investigating these incidents, and we have 15 people on our list. We have questioned them and some are radical Islamists linked with Al-Shabaab,” Mussa told reporters.
“We arrested the youths when they were travelling to join Al-Shabaab and they admitted they were going for jihad,” he added, saying that some had been released on bail pending possible charges.
He said police were also “finalising compiling evidence before charging three people” with the attack on the British girls, Katie Gee and Kirstie Trup, but refused to give further details on the probe and said it was still too early to say if the attacks were religious in nature.
Tourism is the main foreign currency earner for Zanzibar, famed for its white-sand beaches and historical buildings in Stone Town, listed as a world heritage site by Unesco.
Tensions between the majority Muslim population and Christians - three percent of the 1.2 million people on the islands - have risen in recent years, as well as on mainland Tanzania. - Sapa-AFP