DAR ES SALAAM (AFP) – Police in southern Tanzania used teargas Wednesday to disperse about 200 Christian rioters attempting to torch a mosque over an animal slaughtering conflict.
“The situation is now under control and there is not much damage, but two people including a policeman sustained stone injuries,” Mbeya Regional Police Commander Diwani Athumani told AFP.
Police arrived at the mosque in time to put out the fire.
Athumani said the estimated 200 rioters also destroyed property of a Chinese firm building a road between the town of Tunduma where the incident took place and Sumbawanga.
“At least 50 people have been arrested in connection with the riots and efforts are still going on to apprehend more troublemakers,” the police commander said.
He said tensions between Muslims and Christians in the area had been rising over the slaughtering of animals for public consumption, a task traditionally carried out by Muslims.
The issue of Christians performing the slaughtering sparked tensions in different parts of the country, as Muslims fear they will not respect Islamic rules.
Athumani said the issue had been resolved during several meetings held by Mbeya Regional Commissioner Abbas Kandoro, but some politicians were now instigating people to riot.
“It is no longer a religious issue, but some people now want to make political capital out of the matter,” he said.
On the nearby Zambian side of the border, authorities in the town of Nakonde announced they had closed the border after the incidents.
“We have closed our border in Nakonde because Muslims and Christians are fighting in Tanzania and we are afraid that if we remain open, many can flock into here,” said James Singoyi, the District Commissioner for Nakonde, approximately 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) north of the capital Lusaka.
The Nakonde border is the main entry point into Zambia, a landlocked country for imported goods particularly second-hand vehicles from Japan