Police in Zanzibar have launched a campaign against people possessing acid illegally. The Commissioner of Police – Zanzibar, Mr Mussa Ali Mussa, told a news conference that 15 people including youths linked to Al-Shabab terror group have been arrested.
“Our operation targets unauthorised laboratories, shops, importers, distributors and users of acid. “We are searching homes, shops and other suspected places. We ask people to help us in providing information,” said CP Mussa.
He told journalists at the Zanzibar Police Headquarters at Ziwani that in the operation which started last Saturday, a day after an attack on Roman Catholic priest Joseph Anselm Mwangamba, that no place would be spared. He said several bottles containing different types acids have been confiscated.
He said among the 15 arrested people, there are youths linked to political and Islamic radicalism and Al-Shabab terrorist group. “We arrested the youths who were in the process to travel to join al-Shabaab, admitting that they were going for jihad (holy war).
However, Mussa declined to give details of the arrested people, saying revealing more information would tamper with investigations. He said the motive behind all the acid attacks is still unknown. “These are criminal acts like any other crimes: Rape, theft and murder. We cannot rush to conclude that the attacks have been religious or politically motivated. Let us join forces to fight this crime,” he said.
He said all the 15 suspects are on police bail as investigation continues. “We have forwarded the cases to the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) for legal process.” In his assessment on the rate of crime in the Islands, Mussa told a press conference that in “general crime has been decreasing.”
“We have been working with TAMWA, ZAFELA, UNICEF, Save-the-children and other gender activists to fight the abuse. Police recorded about 331 abuses in 2011, but the number dropped to 235 last year. The biggest challenge we have is the emerging use of acid to attack people.”
The commissioner of police statement comes when the police are under fire for failing to arrest criminals using acid to attack people mainly religious leaders. Some Christians want Mussa to step-down, but he downplayed the call by saying “those wanting me to step down it’s their own opinion and have no answer.”
Last Friday a Roman Catholic Church priest Joseph Anselm Mwangamba (61), was injured when unknown youth threw an acid at him. He was flown to a hospital in Dar es Salaam for further treatment.
By ISSA YUSSUF, Tanzania Daily News