Men riding a motorbike threw acid at two Jewish British teenage girls in Tanzania’s semi-autonomous Zanzibar region, leaving them with facial, chest and back injuries, a senior police official said.
Kirstie Trup and Katie Gee, both 18 and from northwest London, were flown to Tanzania’s commercial capital Dar es Salaam for treatment.
The girls’ parents told the Jewish Chronicle paper that they do not believe the girls were targeted because they were inappropriately dressed during the Muslim festival of Ramadan, as some have speculated.
Trup’s father told reporters the girls were targeted “for no reason”. He said: “We know it’s a Muslim country. They weren’t dressed inappropriately because they know the rules.”
Gee’s mother Nicky, 45, said: “They were dressed appropriately — they just attacked two young girls.”
The parents said the teens were not wearing anything that would have identified them as Jews.
Authorities said the the girls’ injuries were not life-threatening, but Nicky Gee, said her daughter was badly hurt.
“I’ve spoken to my daughter – her whole face and body is burnt,” the shaken mom told the Guardian.
The girls were expected to be flown back to Britain today.
They had been volunteering at a local school in Zanzibar, an island that is popular with international tourists but has suffered a wave of deadly protests last year as supporters of an Islamist group repeatedly clashed with the police.
A friend said one of the girls had earlier been accosted for singing during Ramadan.
“She was shocked as it just came from out of the blue,” Oli Cohen, 21, told reporters. “But she wasn’t scared enough to come home she stayed out there to finish her trip and volunteering.”
Britain is concerned about Wednesday’s attack and is “in contact with the Tanzanian authorities”, the Foreign Office said in a statement.
The police described the attack as “an isolated incident”, refusing to link it to rising religious tension on the island between majority Muslims and its Christian population.
“The attackers approached the girls as they were walking on a street at around 7:15 p.m. and threw acid at them,” Zanzibar Urban West regional police commander Mkadam Khamis Mkadam told Reuters. “The incident occurred when the streets were deserted as most people were breaking their Ramadan fast.”
Television images showed one girl obviously in pain in the back of a car at the Zanzibar airport.
“The victims sustained facial, chest and back injuries from the acid attack,” Mkadam said.
The Britons were expected to fly home on Thursday.
The attack comes during the tourist season in the historic town and after a Zanzibar Muslim leader, Sheikh Fadhil Suleiman Soraga, was hospitalised with acid burns in a November attack.
Two Christian leaders were killed early this year in separate attacks.
A separatist group in Zanzibar, Uamsho (Awakening), is pushing for the archipelago to exit from its 1964 union with mainland Tanzania, which is ruled as a secular country. Uamsho wants to introduce Islamic Sharia law in Zanzibar.
Supporters of the group have engaged in running street battles with the police in the past, but authorities have not linked the group with the attacks on Christian clerics.