Tanzania church blast: Saudi and UAE suspects freed

Wounded churchgoers lie on the ground as Catholic nuns run for cover after the blast in Arusha (5 May 2013) Image copyright AP
Image caption A Roman Catholic service was attacked

Tanzania has freed three Emiratis and a Saudi arrested over the bombing of a church in the northern city of Arusha on 5 May, police say.

The four turned out to be tourists who had nothing to do with the attack, Arusha Regional Police Commander Liberatus Sabas said.

Tanzanian Victor Ambrose Calist was charged on Monday in connection with the attack, he added.

At least three people were killed and 60 others wounded in the blast.

Tanzania's President Jakaya Kikwete condemned the attack as an act of terrorism.

Taxi operator charged

The bombing occurred during the inaugural Mass at St Joseph's Roman Catholic church in Olasti, a suburb of Arusha which is predominantly Christian.

Neighbouring Kenya and Uganda were assisting with the investigation, Cdr Sabas said.

Thirty-one of the wounded were still being treated in hospital, he added.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Dozens of people were injured in the explosion

Mr Calist, a 20-year motor cycle taxi operator, appeared in a magistrate's court on Monday on three counts of murder and 18 of attempted murder.

He was not asked to plead and was remanded in custody.

After the blast, police said eight people - including four Saudis - had been arrested while trying to cross into Kenya.

Later, they said that only one of the Arabs was Saudi and the other three were Emiratis.

Both the Saudi and Emirati governments confirmed that the four were released on Sunday.

Investigations showed that they were not involved in the bombing, Cdr Sabas said.

Tanzania has seen a rise in religious violence in the past year.

Last month, police in southern Tanzania used teargas to disperse about 200 Christian rioters attempting to set fire to a mosque following a dispute over animal slaughtering.

In February, a Catholic priest was shot in the head on the largely Muslim island of Zanzibar.

Last year, Muslim cleric Sheikh Ponda Issa Ponda was arrested over attacks on churches, following rumours that a Christian boy had urinated on a copy of the Koran.

There are no official records of religious affiliation in Tanzania so it is not clear whether Muslims or Christians form the majority.

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