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A Muslim preacher is under armed guard in Tanzania after police sought him out in possible connection to the acid attack on two British teenagers that left them badly burned, several media outlets reported.
The preacher, identified as Sheikh Issa Ponda, was apparently injured by a teargas canister as he tried to escape police officers, Mirror Online reported. He is currently under armed guard in a hospital, following suspicion that he might have incited the acid attack on 18-year-old British teenagers Katie Gee and Kirstie Trup in Zanzibar last week by two men on a motorcycle.
The girls, who were part of a volunteering teaching program working at a primary school, suffered burns to their face, chest, and hands. They were treated at a local hospital in Zanzibar before being flown back to their families in the U.K.
"They are really not in any emotional or physical state to do anything," Marc Trup, Kirstie's father, has said of their condition, according to The Guardian. "Since their arrival, the enormity of their ordeal is having a devastating effect on them, as is the extent of the injuries."
According to reports, acid attack in Zanzibar, a heavily Muslim island, are rare and occur mostly in feuds. Locals are said to have been left "shocked" that foreigners were targeted this time.
An official motive for the attack has not yet been established, but police have said the preacher might have incited the incident – though other reports deny that the arrest is in connection to this particular incident. His sermons leading up to the attack apparently focused on using violence to counter the "colonization" of Zanzibar.
"Sheikh Ponda was there and spoke for a short time before leaving in a car. Police attempted to stop the car from the front to make an arrest," Tanzanian police spokesman Advera Senso said, according to NY Daily News.
Witnessed shared that Ponda had apparently tried to flee in a car when he was hit in the shoulder by the teargas canister, while police officers surrounding the cleric were pelted with stones by his followers.
The British victims are recovering at London's Chelsea and Westminster Hospital while doctors and their families are considering further treatment options and are deciding whether the teenagers will need skin grafts.
"Each girl faces their own trauma, different but each equally important. These scars, mental and physical, [are] something they both have to live with for a long time," Trup added.
Said Ali Mbarouk, the Tanzanian tourism minister, has said the attacks have shocked and shamed the country, and that security has been increased in tourist areas.