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Bomb blasts at Zanzibar tourist bar, cathedral

25 February 2014, 06:59

Zanzibar - Two homemade bombs exploded Monday on the popular Indian Ocean tourist island of Zanzibar, but with no casualties, police said, in the latest in a series of attacks.

"Investigations are ongoing to find out details of the blasts and the motive behind them," assistant police commissioner Mkadam Khamis told reporters.

One blast took place at the Anglican cathedral, a historic building in the heart of the narrow and winding ancient streets of Stone Town, the Unesco-listed historical centre of the capital of the semi-autonomous Tanzanian archipelago.

The other occurred at the seafront Mercury's restaurant and bar, a favourite of tourists.

"It is suspected that the explosives are homemade bombs thrown by unidentified thugs," Khamis said, adding that the blast at the cathedral had caused only minor damage to parked cars.

The bar, located near the main port and seafront square, is named after flamboyant rock musician and Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, who was born on the island.

The British High Commission said it was "ready to provide consular assistance as necessary".

Last year unknown attackers hurled acid into the faces of two British teenage girls as they strolled through Stone Town, as Zanzibar's Muslim majority were preparing to celebrate the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

In the past year, attackers have also thrown acid into the faces of religious leaders, both Christian and Muslim. Others have been shot.

Fears of a tourist exodus

Several churches have been torched following violent protests amid rising religious tensions in the east African archipelago between communities who have traditionally lived in peace.

The series of attacks has sparked fears of a tourist exodus from Zanzibar, which is famed for its pristine white-sand beaches and is heavily reliant on tourism.

Another apparent homemade bomb was hurled into a church on Sunday, which exploded but caused no casualties.

In Zanzibar, some more conservative elements of the Muslim community object to foreign tourists who wear revealing clothes, and frequent bars selling alcohol.

Some have blamed the hardline Islamic group Uamsho, Swahili for "The Awakening", a minority group but believed to be growing in influence, especially among disaffected and jobless youth.

While the group denies involvement in any of the attacks, they have widely succeeded in funnelling cultural and political tensions into support for radical Islamism.

As Zanzibar celebrates the 50th anniversary of its union with mainland Tanzania this year, some opposition political parties also want to break ties and return to independence.



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