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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Catholic Priest Seriously Wounded in Zanzibar
Tanzania suspected Islamist extremists shoot clergyman through cheeks on Christmas Day

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

NAIROBI, KENYA (ANS) -- Suspected Islamic extremists on Christmas Day shot a Roman Catholic priest on the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar, seriously wounding him, area church leaders said.

According to a story by Morning Star News, two individuals on a motorcycle shot Rev. Ambrose Mkenda through his cheeks and in the shoulder before 8 p.m. as he arrived home in Tomondo. That’s about four miles from Zanzibar city, capital of the semi-autonomous island in the Indian Ocean about 25 kilometers (16 miles) off the coast of Tanzania.

Morning Star News said Christian leaders suspected members of the separatist group Uamsho or "Awakening," the Association for Islamic Mobilization and Propagation. The group has threatened Christians since an Oct. 10 children's argument in Dar es Salaam resulted in a boy allegedly defiling the Koran. Key Uamsho leaders were jailed for subsequent attacks on church buildings.

“Just as he was arriving at the gate, the suspected group shot him from his right through his cheeks, and he became unconscious,” said Lucian Mgaywa, general secretary of the Church of God in Zanzibar. “He was then rushed to Mnazi Mmoja Hospital”"

Morning Star News reported that a priest at Mpedae Parish three miles from Zanzibar city, Mkenda's condition deteriorated and he was flown to the Tanzania mainland the following day and put in intensive care.

“As of Dec. 27, his health had worsened, and he was then taken to the Intensive Care Unit at Muhimbili National Hospital in Dar-es-Salaam, to try to save his life,” Mgaywa said.

Morning Star News said Uamsho distributed leaflets threatening church leaders in Zanzibar in October, when authorities arrested group Commander Sheikh Farid Hadi Ahmed and six others following several attacks on church buildings on Zanzibar and the mainland.

“The threats issued by Uamsho read, ‘We now want the heads of all the church pastors in Zanzibar,’” Morning Star News reported Mgayway said.

He added, “Such utterances caused a lot of panic, and some of the pastors feared for their lives and fled out of Zanzibar to the mainland of Tanzania.”

The Uamsho threats have deeply unsettled area Christians, which make up a tiny minority on the majority-Muslim island, Morning Star News reported he said.

“Since the arrest of the Uamsho leaders, rumors have been moving all over Zanzibar that the group is planning to mount up a serious attack to pressure the government to release the leaders of the Uamsho group,” Morning Star News reported Mgaywa said. “Church leaders link the attack to this group.”

Police reportedly said the assailants did not take anything from the unconscious priest.

Morning Star News reported that Obeid Fabian, head of the Zanzibar Pastors' Fellowship, said the suspects have not been arrested, and the Uamsho threats leave little doubt about who shot the priest.

“The leaflets have threatening messages targeting four bishops in Zanzibar to kill them by whatever means - that includes Roman Catholic, Anglican Church, Tanzania Assemblies of God and Pentecostal Church,” Fabian said.

Morning Star News said an Islamist group fighting for full autonomy of the Zanzibar archipelago, Uamsho arose after Zanzibar's primary opposition, the Civic United Front (CUF), formed a government with the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party in 2010.

“The situation in Zanzibar at the moment is alarming,” Mgaywa said. “We request that we be remembered in prayers.”

For more information about Morning Star News go to at


Jeremy Reynalds is Senior Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service, a freelance writer and also the founder and CEO of Joy Junction, New Mexico's largest emergency homeless shelter, He has a master's degree in communication from the University of New Mexico, and a Ph.D. in intercultural education from Biola University in Los Angeles. His newest book is "Homeless in the City."

Additional details on "Homeless in the City" are available at Reynalds lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. For more information contact: Jeremy Reynalds at

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