Members of the Islamic revival group (UAMSHO) in Zanzibar, who on Saturday burnt churches and vehicles, yesterday torched three bars as police arrested seven of them in a major operation to bring the situation under control.
Zanzibar Commissioner of Police, Mussa Ali told journalists yesterday that they had arrested seven members of the group and two of their leaders. He said they are still hunting for the group’s top leaders namely Sheikh Farid Hadi and his Assistant Amir Azzan Khalid.
“We are searching the group’s top leaders and all those involved in riots so that they are taken to court”, he noted.
Ali said the police force will continue to guard Zanzibar residents and retain peace within the Islands.
“We decided to use tear gas because the rioters were threatening people’s lives by torching churches and blocking roads especial at Michenzani area. We couldn’t tolerate them as they were destructing government and people’s properties”, he said.
Reports from Zanzibar said the group destroyed properties and took away cash.
Bar owners interviewed here said the group of more than 200 people armed with local weapons set on fire Aman Fresh, Darajani bars and another one located in Amani area.
The group blocked roads with burning tyres, according to eye witnesses who said the demonstrators were armed with clubs, machetes, iron bars. Police were yet to issue any statement on the afternoon fracas.
CCM Ideological and Publicity Secretary for Zanzibar, Issa Haji Gavu blamed leaders of inaction, saying the group had started its illegal activities a long time back.
“If these leaders have failed, then they should quit,” he said, calling on the public to be calm as security organs fought to calm the situation.
On Saturday the Islamic group brought businesses in the Isles to a standstill as they fought the police in attempts to force the release one of their leaders Mussa Issa at Mjini Magharibi post.
An Assemblies of God church located at Kariakoo was damaged and a vehicle belonging to its Bishop torched by the group.
St Theresa church located at Bububu area was also invaded and torched on Saturday midnight.
Reports said the group began by holding an illegal march from Lumumba to Kisonge through Mlandege and Michenzani areas, forcing police to use tear gas to disperse the group which was barring people from going into shops at Darajani market complex.
This paper witnessed some Zanzibar residents parking their vehicles at Mnazi Mmoja hospital after some of the major roads including Mlandege, Darajani and Michenzani were blocked to traffic.
Police used several cars with registration numbers, PT 1447, PT 870, PT 1891, STH 2921 and PT 1871 while the fire brigade used a single vehicles registered ‘KZU 224, KZU 231’ to put off fire at different places in Zanzibar town.
Police Commissioner Ali said since the Islamic group started it has been preaching against the Union and using strong language against the government.
He said police were searching for the group’s leaders because they have violated their own constitution.
Speaking to The Guardian some Zanzibar residents blamed the government for failing to control establishment of Non-Governmental Organisations and Muslim leaders for allowing such people to conduct preaching which instigate chaos within the community.
Rashid Mchenga who is the Farmers Association Director of Policy and Programmes said leaders are to blame for the problems in Zanzibar due to poor supervision of laws and regulations.
Similar riots erupted in Zanzibar last year but until today no one has been arrested in connection with the incidents.