x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

UAE Foreign Ministry says 3 citizens arrested in connection to Tanzanian church blast

The official Twitter page for the Foreign Ministry tweeted last night it was closely following developments in the African nation.

ABU DHABI // Three Emiratis have been arrested in connection with Sunday’s bombing of a church in Tanzania, which killed two worshippers and injured 60 others, the Foreign Ministry said.

On Tuesday night the ministry tweeted it was closely following the situation with the UAE Embassy in Dar Es Salaam “within diplomatic and legal channels”.

Saudi’s foreign ministry said one of its nationals was also being held.

A UAE official said the men were in Tanzania on holiday and unlikely to have been involved.

But Tanzania denied any Emiratis were arrested.

The Saudi spokesman, Osama Nugali, said the Saudi arrested was a tourist who had been arrested “only for investigation and questioning”.

“He is being treated very well, and as a witness,” Mr Nugali said. “[The authorities] want to see if they can get any information from all the people who were around [the area of the attack].”

The Saudi ambassador to Tanzania, Hany Mo’mina, told the Saudi newspaper Al Hayat this week that the Saudi was a friend of the three Emiratis and all of them were tourists.

Mr Mo’mina also confirmed the four were not accused of committing the act, but were only suspects.

Other Arabs and foreigners have been arrested in connection with the attack, he said.

But an official from the Tanzanian foreign ministry said: “There are only four suspects, who are Saudi nationals. There is no one from the UAE.”

Asked about UAE’s statements regarding the detention of Emirati citizens, he said the ministry was “not aware of that. There are the four arrests: four Saudis. And there should be one Kenyan, and the rest [of the suspects] are Tanzanian”.

The Tanzanian embassies in Abu Dhabi and Riyadh declined to comment. The Saudi embassy in Dar Es Salaam also declined.

The UAE Foreign Ministry said it could not reveal any further details until the embassy in Tanzania had given its full report.

The Foreign Minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, on Monday 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,” he said, the state news agency Wam reported.

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 in Arusha comes at a time of heightened religious tensions in Tanzania.

The US state department estimates 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. On Easter Sunday, several Catholic bishops received threatening text messages.

“There are worrying concerns that you might see religion used as a conflict factor in Tanzania,” said Kjetil Tronvoll, a professor at the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights who focuses on Tanzania.

If any of those charge were linked to the Arabian Gulf, it would be the first sign of an international dimension to the local conflicts.

Neighbouring Somalia, Kenya and Uganda have battled with transnational extremist networks in recent years, most notably from the Al Shabab group, which is based in Somalia.

The official at Tanzania’s ministry of foreign affairs said he expected the police to decide soon whether to charge the foreigners in detention, although he could not say when. The commander of Arusha police.

Many in Tanzania still regard the attack from a local angle.

“In Tanzania, people’s focus has not been on the foreigners so much as on the internal dynamics that led this to happen,” said a country risk analyst based in Dar Es Salaam, who did not want to be identified.

Tanzania has 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.


osalem@thenational.ae
edickinson@thenational.ae