x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

UAE citizens held over Tanzania church bombing released without charge

Three Emiratis, who were arrested more than a week ago in connection with a bomb attack on a Catholic church, have returned home, the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs has announced.

ABU DHABI // Three Emiratis who were held in Tanzania for more than a week following the bombing of a church were released on Sunday without charge and have returned to the UAE.

The three, along with a Saudi national, were arrested after the fatal blast at the St Joseph Mfanyakazi Roman Catholic Church, on the edge of Arusha, Tanzania’s fourth-largest city, on May 5.

In a tweet, the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs said: “After follow-up from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other competent authorities in the UAE, and in coordination with the embassy in Tanzania, the three Emirati detainees have been released and will be back in the country this evening [Sunday].”

The men were arrested within 90 minutes of the attack  in which three people died.

Soon after the arrest, a UAE official said that the men were in Tanzania on holiday and were unlikely to have been involved.

Intelligence sources said the three Emiratis and the Saudi entered Tanzania legally, arriving at the Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam, the 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 Saudi ambassador to Tanzania, Hany Mo’mina, told the Saudi newspaper Al Hayat this week that the Saudi was a friend of the Emiratis and all of them were tourists.

Other Arabs and foreigners have been arrested in connection with the attack, which also injured 59, he added.

The Foreign Minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, last week condemned the bombing as a “cowardly act”

“The UAE condemns strongly this act that has resulted in the deaths of a number of innocent people,” state news agency Wam reported him as saying.

The UAE offered its solidarity and support to Tanzania, and expressed the country’s rejection of terrorism, adding that it condemned any acts that targeted places of worship and desecrated their sanctity.

Sheikh Abdullah called on countries to stand together against terrorism.

The bombing came at a time of heightened religious tensions in Tanzania. The US state department estimated that 62 per cent of the country’s 45 million people are Christian, while 35 per cent are Muslim. Several incidents in recent months have increased fears of violence between the two groups.

Tanzania has also recently been strengthening its economic links to the Arabian Gulf. The president, Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, was on an official visit to Kuwait when the church was bombed.

There he signed an agreement to open a permanent committee for cooperation between the two countries.