Bomb blast in Zanzibar’s Stone Town rattles tourism fraternity and community at large


(Posted 15th June 2014)

A bomb blast at the UNESCO World Heritage Site ‘Stone Town’ yesterday evening took Zanzibari security forces by surprise. The explosion took place near a mosque at the time when worshippers emerged after evening prayers and coincided with two major events taking place on the so called ‘Spice Island’.

A religious meeting of Muslims from across Eastern Africa is presently taking place on Zanzibar’s main island of Unguja and an International Film Festival has also launched this weekend, prompting speculation that the bomb attack may have been timed to create maximum impact on the minds of Zanzibaris and on visitors from abroad.

Earlier this year, in February, as reported at the time, did two IED’s explode near a Catholic church and there has been periodic trouble on the island when radicals tried to incite Muslims and Christians, a strategy which has however failed in the face of the vast majority of Zanzibaris being peace loving and tolerant people.

One tourism source expressed fear that this could be leading to similar developments like happened in neighbouring Kenya where Britain pulled the plug on the country with an antitravel advisory which led to the immediate evacuation of British holiday makers from Kenya’s beaches. ‘I hope this is just an isolated case but as you just said, we had two incidents in February too. If this continues it will have a very bad effect on tourism because 75 percent of the island’s foreign exchange comes from it. If tourism gets affected like it did in Kenya, we are in for a very hard time’.

Across the border in Kenya a regular commentator was swift to say: ‘Terrorism is a global issue. We have been hit by it in Kenya and though it was entirely directed against us Kenyans we still got hammered by the travel advisories from the UK, the US and others. This act in Zanzibar shows we are not alone in fighting this enemy. We need to stand together and take the battle to them. I express my deep sympathy to our Zanzibari brothers and sisters over this incident’.

As the motives and perpetrators are not clear at the moment and no group has claimed responsibility as yet, it would be premature to speculate over the immediate aim of this attack. A source from Dar es Salaam has also confirmed that overnight added security personnel were sent to Zanzibar to assist in the investigation and help secure forensic evidence.

The eTN editorial team expresses condolences to the victims of the attack.

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