Two girls who were the victims of a devastating acid attack on the island of Zanzibar Wednesday may have been targeted because they were Jewish, friends of the pair told police, the UK’s The Daily Mail reported.
The British teenagers suffered painful burns when acid was thrown in their faces as they walked to a restaurant on the mostly Muslim island. The pair are now back in England receiving treatment and recovering from their wounds.
Witnesses described seeing two men on a moped throw acid at the girls. Police said that five suspects were detained on Thursday in the capital’s historic Stone Town district, where Kirstie Trup and Katie Gee, both 18, were attacked, Britain’s Telegraph reported.
Police have also issued a warrant for the arrest of Islamist preacher Sheikh Issa Ponda Issa, amid suggestions his teaching could have influenced the attackers.
According to reports, it was the third attack on the pair during their stay on the island.
Gee told friends she was assaulted in the street by a Muslim woman two weeks earlier, apparently for singing during Ramadan.
A project worker said the teenagers were also involved in an argument with a shopkeeper days before the acid attack.
Both had been told to be aware of appropriate dress codes during Ramadan and were careful to avoid wearing anything which would identify them as Jewish.
The girls had been working as volunteer teachers at a Christian nursery school for the past three weeks and were scheduled to fly home Saturday.
Zanzibar, off the coast of east Africa, and part of the republic of Tanzania, attracts thousands of British tourists a year.
Tanzania’s president Jakaya Kikwete visited them in the Aga Khan Hospital, in Dar es Salaam, a signal of Tanzania’s determination to guard its lucrative tourism industry.