Dar es Salaam, Tanzania - Unknown attackers on a motorbike early Sunday shot and killed a Roman Catholic priest who was on his way to celebrate Mass at Mtoni parish in Zanzibar, according to reports reaching here from the East African offshore island which is part of the United Republic of Tanzania.
Father Evarist Mushi was attacked in his car as he approached the church compound and two suspects sped off immediately, the reports said. No official statement has been issued on the murder.
The incident occurred less than two months after another Catholic priest, Ambrose Mkenda, narrowly escaped death when he was shot and injured by unknown assailants also in Zanzibar town.
Deputy Home Affairs Minister Perreira Silima recently told the National Assembly that two suspects have been arrested in connection with the attack on Fr. Mkenda.
Though authorities in Tanzania maintain that the government respects religious freedom of the people on both Mainland Tanzania (formerly Tanganyika) and on the Isles, of late there have been serious clashes between Muslims and Christians.
According to some press accounts here, Wahhabism-influenced preachers seeking to radicalize Islam in East Africa have gained a foothold in Zanzibar and their influence was behind recent incidents of religious intolerance in the country.
Tanzania's President Jakaya Kikwete has been calling on Christian and Muslim leaders to defuse religious tensions that erupt now and again around the country.
In a recent incident this week, the President condemned violence between Christians and Muslims saying: “The main responsibility of ending this tension is with religious leaders who should be very careful of what they preach.”
President Kikwete’s remark followed the death of two persons after followers of the two faiths clashed in Geita Region on the southern shores of Lake Victoria over the right to slaughter animals for human consumption.