Three foreign tourists were stabbed in a restaurant on Zanzibar’s main island of Unguja, by what local sources were quick to describe as an obviously deranged individual.
When fleeing the scene of the first attack the man then also stabbed a fourth foreign tourist but attacked two Zanzibaris too before disappearing into the crowds.
The victims in the restaurant were reportedly of German and French origin while the fourth foreign victim was said to be from Canada.
In the absence of an arrest, no motives can be named with any certainty but the rumour mill is already in full swing, given that the attack took place just after the start of Ramadhan, the holy month of fasting in the Islamic annual lunar calendar.
Suggestions have been made that the perpetrator may have been under the influence of drugs but that too is mere speculation at this time.
Radicals in Europe and other parts of the world have in recent months often carried out knife attacks with ISIS claiming ultimate responsibility and tourists visiting Zanzibar have therefore been cautioned already to be extra vigilant and in particular avoid offending locals by eating and drinking in public places during day hours as the local population observes their month long fast.
Police and other security organs are now hunting for the attacker who was reportedly identified but is still in hiding.
In 2013 An acid attack on the eve of the Eid holiday, which marks the end of the Holy Month of Ramadan, against two young British tourists on the Zanzibari island of Unguja swiftly brought out condemnation from the Spice Island’s tourism community as well as from official government sources, as a manhunt was launched to find the criminals who sped away on a motorbike.
The two `18 year old young women, working as volunteers in one of the island’s schools, were flown to the Tanzanian capital Dar es Salaam to get better treatment as the acid splashed on their faces, arms and hands.
Radical Islamists have in recent years repeatedly tried to damage the generally good relationship between Christians and the majority Muslims on the island by storming, firebombing and destroying churches on the island before shooting a Catholic priest earlier this year.
This situation, which then also spread to the mainland, was eventually brought under control by a determined security apparatus leaving nothing to chance when hunting down the inciters and perpetrators of such attacks.
Unfortunate statements by a small section of politicians that foreign tourists were subject to their religious law when eating or drinking during the fasting daylight hours of Ramadan, did also not go down well with the tourism fraternity, especially after some bars and restaurants were targeted last year and prior to that by radicals.
Tourism sources, on condition of anonymity, expressed their anger and frustration over this latest incident, saying in unison that such acts, this in fact being the first known direct attack on tourists, were extremely rare but yet impacted heavily on the island’s tourism industry.
Tourism is a big source of employment on Unguja. It is also the largest source of foreign exchange earnings. We hope the police can find the perpetrators and bring them to justice quickly. Such incidents give any destination a bad reputation and it is no different here in Zanzibar.
The people here absolutely must be rated as a very friendly lot but a few rotten apples spoil the entire picture the world has of Zanzibar. It is time for community and religious leaders to come out in support of tourism after this incident and condemn such acts in no uncertain terms.
These radicals may well remember that Islam is a religion of peace and not one which condones violence against the innocent’ wrote one source in an overnight mail.
Another source in Arusha also confirmed that following the incident making it into the global news channels, emails started coming in asking if it was safe for booked clients to go and visit Zanzibar after their safaris or if the arrangements needed cancelling in favour of Kenyan or other Indian Ocean islands beaches.
Best wishes for a speedy and full recovery to the two young ladies, whose selfless engagement to volunteer in a Zanzibari school was repaid with aggression and violence.
In 2014, A total of three grenade attacks were reported from Zanzibar’s main island of Unguja, raising concern levels among the tourism and hospitality operators, which have been doing extraordinarily well in recent months.
One of the grenades was thrown on Sunday already towards an Anglican church, fueling suspicion that radical militants continue to inflict terror and inflame cross religious sentiments with their activities.
This was followed yesterday by two more incidents in the famous Stone Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and as such hugely popular with foreign tourists, when another church was targeted before the Mercury Restaurant too had a grenade thrown towards their premises.
Last year were churches and Christian priests repeatedly targeted and two British tourists attacked in the Stone Town with acid, leading to a series of raids by security forces aimed to arrest the perpetrators.
The December murder of a French couple, which had chosen to make Unguja their retirement home, while thought to be an ordinary crime and not related to radical militants, too had rattled the local expatriate and tourism communities, fueling their worries over the impact of negative publicity for the destination.
Tourism operators are said to be particularly unhappy with these latest incidents, one regular source claiming it will harm the image of the Spice Island and could result in tourists staying away from Zanzibar over fears of sectarian violence, which could cost hundreds of jobs if resorts would suffer from a sharp drop in occupancies.
God Forbid, let Ugunja an Zanzibar remain peaceful. The people of Zanzibar learn a lesson from Egypt, Turkey, Yemen, Tunisia.