By Peter Saramba Ongiri
MWANZA, Tanzania (AA) – Muslims in Tanzania’s northern Mwanza city fear for their lives following the recent deadly hacking of worshippers inside a mosque, head of a Muslim body said Friday.
Imam Feruz Ismail, aged 27, and two other people were hacked to death Wednesday during the time of evening prayers at the mosque in Nyamagana district’s Mkolani area.
Tanzanian police claim they have launched a manhunt for the armed gang members behind the storming and killing at the mosque.
Mwanza Regional Police Commander, Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police Ahmed Msangi told Anadolu Agency in a telephone interview Friday that three people were in police custody for questioning over the incident.
“The deceased were all hacked to death by a sharp object which is believed to be machetes, according to eyewitnesses and preliminary investigations,” Msangi said.
“A 13-years old boy, Ismail Abeid, who tried to get out through the women’s entrance sustained injuries after being attacked. The young man is admitted at the Nyamagana District Hospital, Butimba,” he added.
Two survivors told Anadolu Agency at the crime scene that the attackers had displayed a black flag with Arabic inscription in white color.
Abubakar Makabwe, one of the survivors, said: “They attackers were about 15 [in number] and had covered their faces when they stormed into the mosque, switching off the lights before ordering children to walk out through back door usually used by women.”
“Before they began hacking those who were in the mosque, a person who seemed to be in charge, who according to the voice it’s obvious she was a woman, called the imam to step forward before she ordered other fellow [attackers] to hack him to death,” Makabwe said.
Just 24 hours before the attack, police had stormed a Karate center located near the mosque, arresting several youths.
“Yes, we had arrested some people believed to belong to a gang involved in mobile money shops’ attacks in Mwanza city of the recent days,” the police commander said, adding it was too early to relate the mosque attack with the recent arrests.
Following the attack, Muslim religious leaders in Mwanza region urged the Tanzanian government to strengthen security at mosques, especially with the Islamic holy month of Ramadan approaching.
In an interview with AA at Rahman Mosque in Mwanza’s Mkolani area, Mohammad Salim Bara, regional secretary for Tanzania Muslim Council, said people were terrified by the incident.
“The attack was an evil act which is not acceptable in any term,” Bara said, adding: “Due to series of attacks and murder cases in Mwanza which initially was targeting mobile money shops, it’s high time the government take a comprehensive strategy to end this misconduct in the Mwanza city.”