Deadly explosion at Mass in Tanzania

Fear and grief rocked a predominantly Christian area of northern Tanzania on Sunday after an unidentified man reportedly hurled an explosive device at the inaugural Mass of a new church building, killing two worshippers.

The Vatican ambassador to Tanzania, Archbishop Francisco Montecillo Padilla, was in attendance as Mass was about to be celebrated at the new building on the outskirts of Arusha. Neither he nor Arusha Catholic Diocese Archbishop Josaphat Louis Lebulu were among the more than 40 people injured, a source in Tanzania told Morning Star News.

According to their East Africa Correspondent, a hospital confirmed two people were killed in the explosion at St Joseph's Roman Catholic Church, which occurred before 11am when an unidentified man on a motorcycle reportedly hurled an explosive device over the church fence. One of those killed was identified as Regina Loning'o Kuresoi, and among the injured were two 12-year-olds, according to press reports.

Police reportedly said four Saudi Arabian nationals and two Tanzanian citizens had been arrested, including the driver of the motorcycle. Officials urged calm in the face of furious residents. No group has claimed responsibility for the blast.

With a population that is 34.2 percent Muslim, Tanzania is 54 percent Christian. Most of the rest of religious adherents hold ethnic tribal beliefs, according to Operation World.

According to the East Africa correspondent, Tanzania Episcopal Conference Secretary General Anthony Makunde said the blast was part of ongoing, religiously motivated chaos that has left church buildings destroyed and Christian leaders dead. Suspected Islamic extremists on February 17 shot and killed a Roman Catholic priest in Zanzibar; two assailants on a motorbike approached the Reverend Evaristus Mushi as he arrived in his car to the Mass he was about to officiate in the Mtoni area outside Zanzibar City.

Last Christmas Day, suspected Islamic extremists on a motorcycle shot the Reverend Ambrose Mkenda, a Roman Catholic priest, through his cheeks and in the shoulder as he arrived home in Tomondo, about four miles from Zanzibar City. He survived the attack.

Islamists burned several church buildings in various parts of Tanzania last October after two children's argument about the Koran resulted in a Christian boy allegedly defiling Islam's sacred book.

In Kigoma, on the western border, two church buildings were set ablaze on October 14, and the roof of another one was destroyed; on the island of Zanzibar in the Indian Ocean some 25 kilometers (16 miles) off the Tanzanian coast, Muslim extremists on October 13 demolished a building belonging to the Evangelical Assemblies of God-Tanzania (EAGT) in Fuoni, near Zanzibar City; and in Dar es Salaam, where two boys' argument over the Koran set off the violence, three church buildings were set on fire on October 12, and another was destroyed on October 18.

The story added, "The attacks on church buildings came after Muslims began falsely asserting that Christians had sent the Christian boy to the Muslim boy to urinate on the Koran in the Mbagala area of Dar es Salaam on October 10, sources said.

"On October 17, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania leaders released a statement saying churches had also been set ablaze in Mdaula, Mto wa Mbu, Tunduru and Rufiji. The Mbagala attacks, they stated, resulted from inflammatory statements by local religious leaders. They also blamed media outlets for instigating religious hatred."