Zanzibar, Tanzania - Tanzanian police arrested Wednesday a controversial Muslim cleric accused of sparking violent demonstrations last week, prompting a fresh wave of protests, officials said Wednesday.
Sheikh Ponda Issa Ponda, head of the Jumuiya ya wa Islamu Ä the “community of Islam”, a group not recognised by the Tanzanian government Ä was arrested for “incitement to violence and disturbance of the peace,” police chief Suleiman Kova said in a statement.
The arrest in the economic capital Dar es Salaam follows the arrest on Tuesday of 30 supporters accused of vandalism last week, when angry demonstrators marched through the city, sacking several churches.
Last week's demonstrations were sparked by rumours that a 12-year old boy at a Christian school had urinated on a copy of the Koran, according to the police.
Ponda has in recent days led “led his supporters in unauthorised demonstrations calling for bloodshed in Dar es Salaam and the country in general,” Kova added.
Angry demonstrators renewed protests Wednesday, marching through the streets of the economic capital Dar es Salaam as well as in Stone Town, the capital of the semi-autonomous Zanzibar archipelago, a popular tourist destination.
The demonstrators marched outside the police headquarters in Dar es Salaam, demanding the release of Ponda and other demonstrators being held.
The 30 suspects remain in custody ahead of a bail application hearing due on October 30. - Sapa-AFP