x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Three UAE citizens held 'in breach of law' over Tanzania church bombing

The three were arrested along with a Saudi a week ago, in connection with a church bombing in Tanzania.

ARUSHA, Tanzania // Three Emiratis and a Saudi held in connection with a church bombing in northern Tanzania remain in jail in breach of the country's laws, a legal expert has said.

The four men were arrested a week ago yesterday, about 90 minutes after the blast at the St Joseph Mfanyakazi Roman Catholic Church on the edge of Arusha, Tanzania's fourth-largest city, Arusha's regional police commander Liberatus Sabas said.

Three people were killed and 59 wounded in the attack, which the Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete called an "act of terrorism".

But under Tanzanian law detainees must be charged within 48 hours of arrest or be released, no matter what the crime, a former lecturer in law at Arusha's Tumaini University Makumira said on condition of anonymity.

Mr Sabas said SAS and FSA, both 28, and AM, 30, all from Abu Dhabi, remained in detention yesterday in an undisclosed site in the northern city.

With them was MS from Najd province in Saudi Arabia.

"We are waiting for the decision of the director of public prosecution who will determine the case against the suspects," he said.

Magessa Mulongo, the Arusha regional commissioner, said Tanzanian police agencies were also checking if the suspects were on any of the country's watchlists.

Police said federal prosecutors are considering terrorism charges against the men together with eight others, all Tanzanians, who are being held in connection with the bombing.

Mr Sabas would not address complaints that the men were detained because of their nationality or race, or because they happened to be nearby when the bombing occured.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday said it could not reveal any details of the case, but said it was following the investigation.

Hani Abdallah Momenah, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Tanzania, has said the men were in the country as tourists.

Intelligence sources said the three Emiratis and Saudi entered Tanzania legally, arriving at the Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam, country's largest city.

Their visas indicated they were planning to attend a wedding, the sources said.

From there, the men drove 600 kilometres north to Arusha, arriving in the city about 3am on May 4 and checking into a hotel near the main bus terminal, the sources said.

The next day a bomb exploded in the middle of a crowd of worshippers St Joseph Mfanyakazi Roman Catholic Church. The men were arrested within 90 minutes,

Mr Sabas would not elaborate one the circumstances under which the men were taken into custody.

Tanzanian authorities have offered a reward of about US$31,000 (Dh113,863) for any information about the bombing.

Arusha, a city of 534,000 people near the Tanzanian-Kenyan border, is home to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the de-facto capital of the five-nation East African Community, a regional trade and economic bloc.

It is also a gateway for tourists bound for Mt Kilimanjaro, Africa's tallest mountain peak, and the Serengeti, a 30,000 square-kilometre stretch of savannah running between Tanzania and Kenya that is home to some of the most remarkable wildlife in the world.