The Colorado-based IHS information consulting group released information about a terrorist attack on a Catholic church in Tanzania, apparently perpetrated by Muslim jihadis bent on spreading inter-religious conflict. In a release from IHS, senior analyst Robert Besseling said “We assess that the 5 May attack at St Joseph’s Church in Olasiti, Tanzania, was most likely perpetrated by a domestic group seeking to provoke further sectarian violence between Christians and Muslims.”
Besseling said in his research note, “The attack was probably staged by Jumuiya ya Taasisi za Kiislam (Community of Muslim Organisations). This radical Islamist organisation is headed by Sheikh Issa Ponda, who has close ties to Zanzibari Islamist groups which have sought to provoke sectarian unrest and were behind the rioting in Dar es Salaam in 1998 and October 2012.”
The May 5 bombing occurred on a Sunday, seriously injuring approximately 60 persons in Arusha, a town in northern Tanzania. On the same day, six people - four of whom are nationals of Saudi Arabia - were arrested for questioning for their possible involvement in the blast. Three people died as a result of the bomb attack. President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania called the blast an "act of terrorism."
"This is an act of terrorism perpetrated by a cruel person or group who are enemies of the country," Kikwete said in a statement on May 6.
The spokesman for IHS, said of the attack, “The IED (improvised explosive device) appears to have been competently assembled with the aim of causing maximum casualties through the use of shrapnel. Details available on the IED's construction do not, however, necessarily indicate external assistance.”
IHS says that the potential for violent attacks against foreign nationals living in Tanzania, as well as disruption to business, is quite high. “In the likely event of future attacks on Christians, violent confrontations are likely in cities with mixed populations, such as Dar es Salaam, Mwanza, Mbeya, Arusha and Zanzibar's Stone Town. Such violence is likely to take the form of targeted killings, arson attacks and riots, posing high risk of collateral injury to expatriates and tourists, as well as disruption to key sectors including tourism, cargo and businesses based in city centres,” said Besseling.
“The nature of the IED used in Arusha does not alter our assessment that emerging terrorist groups currently lack the capability to inflict major damage on commercial or western targets. However, the risk of attack on western hotels, critical infrastructure and strategic sectors, such as natural gas and mining, is likely to increase over the next two years or so, especially if domestic groups secure funding and technical support from groups such as al-Qaeda in East Africa and al-Shabab,” he continued.
It was on May 5 of this year that an improvised grenade was hurled onto the grounds of St Joseph's Catholic church in the Olasiti suburb of Arusha. Three people died, and 60 were wounded, some seriously. The attack occurred at a celebration to receive the diplomatic representative of the Vatican, who was in attendance. Following sectarian unrest in Mbeya, Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar and Mwanza earlier this year, armed security at Christian sites was increased, especially before the celebration of Easter.
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