- (Photo: Morning Star News/Diocese of Zanzibar)
Suspected Islamic extremists shot and killed a Roman Catholic priest on the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar on Sunday Feb. 17, area sources have said.
Two assailants on a motorbike approached the Rev. Evaristus Mushi as he arrived in his car to the Mass he was about to officiate in the Mtoni area outside Zanzibar city shortly after 7 a.m., area pastors said. The city is the capital of the semi-autonomous island in the Indian Ocean about 25 kilometers (16 miles) off the coast of Tanzania.
The 56-year-old Mushi was shot in the head and chest, they said. He was rushed to a nearby hospital but confirmed dead on arrival.
Bishop Obeid Fabian, head of the Zanzibar Pastors' Fellowship, said several pastors attended Mushi's burial today.
"We have constantly appealed to the government to step up security for the church in Zanzibar, especially for the pastors on the Muslim-majority island in recent months, but nothing much has been done," Fabian told Morning Star News by phone.
The priest was laid to rest at 2 p.m. in Kitope village, with Zanzibari and Tanzanian government officials in attendance, area sources said.
Mushi served in the Diocese of St. Petersburg, Fla. in the United States for a few years starting in 2001, and as authorities have not ruled out foreign Islamic terrorist groups, U.S. officials offered to help find the killers. Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete ordered police to work with specialized investigators from neighboring countries if necessary.
Three suspects were said to have been arrested, but their names were not revealed.
The murder comes nearly two months after the Christmas Day shooting of another Catholic priest, the Rev. Ambrose Mkenda, that seriously injured him. Members of the separatist group Uamsho (Re-awakening) were suspected. Uamsho, the Association for Islamic Mobilization and Propagation, has threatened Christians since October 2012.
The archipelago is more than 97 percent Muslim.
In the Dec. 25 attack, Mkenda was shot as he was coming from Mpendae Parish, three miles from Zanzibar city, and heading to his residence in Tomondo four miles from the capital.
Uamsho had left leaflets threatening to kill church leaders of the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Tanzania Assemblies of God and Pentecostal Church denominations. The Islamist group is fighting for full autonomy of the Zanzibar archipelago; it arose after Zanzibar's primary opposition, the Civic United Front, formed a government with the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party in 2010.