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Explosion kills, injures worshippers at inaugural Mass in Tanzania

Morning Star News

Fear and grief rocked a predominantly Christian area of northern Tanzania on Sunday after an unidentified man reportedly hurled an explosive device at the inaugural Mass of a new church building, killing two worshipers.

The Vatican ambassador to Tanzania, Archbishop Francisco Montecillo Padilla, was in attendance as Mass was about to be celebrated at the new building on the outskirts of Arusha. Neither he nor Arusha Catholic Diocese Archbishop Josaphat Louis Lebulu were among the more than 40 people injured, a source in Tanzania told Morning Star News.

A hospital confirmed two people were killed in the explosion at St Joseph”s Roman Catholic Church, which occurred before 11am when an unidentified man on a motorcycle reportedly hurled an explosive device over the church fence. One of those killed was identified as Regina Loning”o Kuresoi, and among the injured were two 12-year-olds, according to press reports.

Worshipers were packed into the new church building when the explosion went off, the source said.

“It was a colorful celebration with joyous mood when a frightening explosion took place, coupled with loud shouts and crying of the church members,” one church member told the source.

Police reportedly said four Saudi Arabian nationals and two Tanzanian citizens had been arrested, including the driver of the motorcycle. Officials urged calm in the face of furious residents. No group has claimed responsibility for the blast.

Terrorist groups have not been active in Tanzania since the bombing of the US Embassy in 1998, but President Jakaya Kikwete termed Sunday”s explosion a terrorist attack. Previously police had warned of possible violence by Al Qaeda that could include involvement of its Somalia-based partner, Al Shabaab, the source said. At the same time, some area residents believe elements bent on creating religious conflict were behind the explosion, he added.

Tanzania and especially its Zanzibar archipelago have recently suffered attacks by the separatist group Uamsho (Re-awakening). Uamsho, the Association for Islamic Mobilization and Propagation, has threatened Christians on Zanzibar Island since October 2012.

With a population that is 34.2 per cent Muslim, Tanzania is 54 per cent Christian; most of the rest of religious adherents hold ethnic tribal beliefs, according to Operation World.

Tanzania Episcopal Conference secretary general Anthony Makunde said the blast was part of ongoing, religiously motivated chaos that has left church buildings destroyed and Christian leaders dead.



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