- (Photo: REUTERS/Reuters TV)
Two 18-year-old British teenagers have been burned by an acid attack in the African island of Zanzibar in Tanzania by two men on a motorcycle, during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
"The photographs that I have seen are absolutely horrendous. The level of the burns are beyond imagination," said Jeremy Gee, the father of Katie Gee, one of the victims.
"She will be rushed to hospital where consultants and surgeons are waiting for the girls to arrive. Me and her brothers and the rest of the family are devastated."
Gee and the other victim, Kirstie Trup, were attacked by two men on a moped, officials revealed on Thursday. The girls had been on the African island as part of a volunteering teaching program working at a primary school, and were on the final week of their trip.
The Britons suffered burns to their face, chest and hands, though deputy police commissioner, Mkadam Khamis, suggested that the injuries might not result in scarring, making the girls lucky in that respect.
The attack occurred earlier this week, during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Reports have noted that Zanzibar has a heavily Muslim population, and that tensions exist between followers of Islam and the minority Christian residents. Authorities, however, have not yet come up with a motive for the attack.
Trup's father, Marc, said that the girls were "inconsolable" after the attack, and are "very shocked and frightened" and what had happened.
"We know it's a Muslim country. They were western girls. Unfortunately they went out during the month of Ramadan. There has been a huge alert in African countries with potential threats. Maybe it's connected, maybe not," Trup offered.
The victims, who were rushed to a local hospital immediately after the attack, were visited by Tanzania's president Jakaya Kikwete, who vowed that those responsible would be found and brought to justice.
"It's a shameful attack that tarnishes the image of our country, I order security agents to speed up the investigations and arrest the suspects," Kikwete said, according to The Telegraph.
The girls were discharged from the hospital on Thursday and flew back home to the U.K. on Friday, where family and friends were waiting for them.
"I've spoken to my daughter – her whole face and body is burnt," said Katie Gee, Nicky's mother.
Meanwhile, the Independent reported that five men have been held for questioning in relation to the attack, though authorities are still trying to identify what lead to the incident.
Tourism Minister Said Ali Mbarouk spoke out against the attacks, reminding Zanzibar citizens that tourism is an important part of their economy and such incidents are very bad for the region's future.
"I beg our nationals, this is not something they should be doing. Tourism is the strongest pillar of our economy, so if we do such acts we are killing our economy and our livelihoods in general. So it is not an honorable thing to do, it's a bad thing and it should be condemned by all citizens of Zanzibar," Mbarouk said.
The Foreign Office added that as many as 75,000 Britons travel to Tanzania every year, mostly without incident, but crimes and the threat of terrorism are increasing.