Thursday, August 8, 2013

Kikwete condemns acid attack on British women

British volunteers Kirstie Trup (left) and

British volunteers Kirstie Trup (left) and Katie Gee, who were attacked with acid in Zanzibar on Wednesday. They were admitted to the Aga Khan Hospital in Dar es Salaam. PHOTO | AGENCIES 

By Bernard Lugongo

Dar es Salaam. President Jakaya Kikwete yesterday condemned Wednesday’s acid attack on two young British women in Zanzibar as “senseless and disgraceful”.

President Kikwete made the remarks after visiting the victims at the Aga Khan Hospital in Dar es Salaam.

Meanwhile, the organisation that hosted the two volunteers said the attack was premeditated.

The incident took place at around 6pm in the Stone Town area as Katie Gee and Kirstie Trup, both aged 18, were heading to a restaurant for their evening meal.

Mr Bashir Ismail, the assistant Team Leader of Art In Tanzania, the non-governmental organisation that hosted the women, said in Dar es Salaam that eyewitnesses told them that the street Ms Gee and Ms Trup were walking on was full of tourists.

“The two attackers who were on a motorcycle singled out our colleagues for attack...there were many tourists, but they targeted Katie and Kirstie,” Mr Ismail told reporters at the Aga Khan Hospital where the two young women were being treated after being evacuated from Zanzibar on Wednesday evening.

He said the motive for the attack was still unknown, adding that the two could not have done anything to offend the sensibilities of locals, the vast majority of whom are Muslims. “They were dressed casually but decently. They were in jeans trousers. Many foreigners in Zanzibar dress that way,” Mr Ismail noted.

The police spokesperson in Zanzibar, Mr Mohammed Mhina, said no suspect had been arrested in connection with the attack.

“We have launched a manhunt and we believe we are closing on in the assailants,” he told The Citizen by telephone.

Meanwhile, there were reports that Ms Gee and Ms Trup were to be flown to the UK for further treatment.

An official from the British High Commission visited the victims, but declined to speak to reporters.

President Kikwete said the incident had tarnished Tanzania’s reputation, adding that no effort would be spared in hunting down those responsible.

“It is the first time that foreigners have been attacked in this way. It has shamed our country. We will hunt down the perpetrators,” he said as he left the Aga Khan Hospital.

The hospital’s management declined to comment on the condition of the victims, but Mr Ismail said Ms Trup sustained acid burns on her face and chest, while Ms Gee had face injuries.

He said they were responding well to treatment.

“They were in shock when we evacuated them to the Aga Khan Hospital on Wednesday evening, but they are now much better and they can talk,” he said.

The two arrived in the country a fortnight ago and were to teach at the Catholic Church-owned St Monica Nursery and Primary School in Zanzibar for a month.

There are 15 other foreign nationals who are volunteering at drug addict rehabilitation centres in Zanzibar and teaching at St Monica School. They are from the UK, US and Australia. But Mr Ismail said the volunteers were now scared and all wanted to go back home.

“The incident has really troubled them, but we are trying to assure them of their safety now that police are hunting for the assailants,” he said.

The Zanzibar government has offered a Sh10 million reward for information leading to the arrest of the attackers. Zanzibar Information and Tourism minister Said Ali Mbarouk asked for the public’s cooperation in investigations into the incident.

“We should cooperate to ensure that the perpetrators are arrested and brought to justice,” he said, adding that the attack could have serious repercussions on tourism, which is a major foreign exchange earner for Zanzibar.

The UK Foreign Office said it was aware of the incident and was providing consular assistance.