Police in Zanzibar have launched a manhunt in search of individuals involved in a bomb that killed one person and injured eight others.
The incident, according to the police, occurred on Friday at 8 pm at the Darajani commercial district of Stone Town, the UNESCO-listed world heritage site.
Speaking to The Guardian on Sunday yesterday, Urban West Regional Police Commander Mkadam Khamis Mkadam said police were yet to establish the motive behind what he termed as a cowardly act.
“We are searching for the perpetrators of this act… we therefore call for assistance from the public. We kindly ask for whoever has information on these people to furnish us with tips as police alone are unable to accomplish this task,” the regional police chief pleaded.
“We are investigating to find out the type of explosive, the criminals and motive,” he said, while witnesses said the casualties included worshippers coming out of evening prayers at a nearby mosque.
The island is also currently hosting a religious gathering of Muslims from across the East Africa region. “We ask people not to panic, as the security forces are on full alert,” the RPC urged.
He identified the fatality case as Muhammed Abdallah Mkumbalagula (27), a resident of Tanga who arrived in the Isles on Monday on a religious assignment.
The injured included Kassim Mafuta Kassim (38), also a resident of Tanga, while the rest are Zanzibaris, namely Hamad Masour Khamis (46), Suleiman Ali Juma (21), Khelef Abdallah Abdallah (21), Kassim Issa Mahmoud, Ahmed Haidar (47) and Halid Ahmed Haidar (16).
All the injured persons were rushed to Mnazi Mmoja Referral Hospital and by early yesterday three of them had been discharged.
The bomb exploded as believers were returning to their home places after evening prayers.
He said police found gray pieces of bombs at the scene of explosion, which the RPC said was an indication that the device that exploded was homemade.
No one was in police custody in connection with the explosion, he said.
The attack coincided with the opening of the Zanzibar International Film Festival, which has drawn a number of international visitors, and bars and restaurants have also been packed with people watching matches of the World Cup finals in Brazil.
There was no claim of responsibility for the bomb attack.
Zanzibar has been the scene of sectarian and political tensions in recent years, with the bomb breaking a period of calm that has prevailed for several months.
In February two improvised bombs exploded at Stone Town’s Anglican cathedral and a seafront bar popular with tourists, without causing casualties.
Last year suspected Islamist attackers hurled acid on the faces of two British teenage English teaching girls as they strolled through Stone Town, during preparations for the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.
Tensions surrounding this year’s 50th anniversary of Zanzibar’s union with Tanganyika added to the contention, especially due to an acrimonious constitutional assembly where opposition parties seeking a break up of the union.
The recurring attacks, now on the sidelines of a film festival, have sparked fears of a tourist exodus from Zanzibar as it is the case now with Kenya, despite its pristine white sand beaches. The state budget is heavily reliant on tourism.
Observers saw the latest attack as reinforcing fears of stability, with EAC Secretary General Dr Richard Sezibera reiterating on Thursday that peace and stability were critical in attracting investments to the Great Lakes Region.