Sam Jones, Guardian (London), August 8, 2013
Two young British women who were attacked with acid on the archipelago of Zanzibar, Tanzania are due to fly home tonight according to their travel company.
Katie Gee and Kirstie Trup, both 18 and from London, were walking through the old part of the main island’s capital, Zanzibar City, when the assault took place on Wednesday night. “I’ve spoken to my daughter – her whole face and body is burnt,” said Katie’s mother, Nicky Gee. They were volunteering as teachers for a charity on the predominantly Muslim island.
Zanzibar’s assistant police commissioner, Mkadam Khamis Mkadam, said: “They were accosted by two men riding a motorcycle. They poured this liquid–we suspect it is acid–and ran away.”
Mkadam said the women were given first aid and taken to hospital in the Tanzanian capital, Dar es Salaam, for further treatment. They were discharged on Thursday morning yesterday and were due to fly back to Britain on Thursday .
Mkadam said the women appeared to have escaped serious injury. “They are very lucky,” he said. “The doctors said the injuries are relatively minor. There is discolouration, but they are not expected to be scarred. It is very fortunate.”
He said police were looking into the motive for the attack, adding: “Normally these guys who ride motorcycles snatch bags and cameras, but this is new. It is worrying.”
Gee, from East Finchley, and Trup, from Hampstead, had been volunteering at a school with Art in Tanzania and were reaching the end of their three-week stay.
A spokesman for the Trup family told the London Evening Standard that the teenagers had been aware that it was Ramadan on the Muslim island and had dressed and behaved accordingly. “The girls weren’t doing anything wrong,” he said. “They were fully covered and had long sleeves on.”
He said Gee and Trup had travelled to Tanzania after finishing their A-levels.
“They didn’t choose to go to Ibiza or Magaluf but instead chose Zanzibar to help people,” he said. “We checked it was safe but it seems there was some unrest there.”
The volunteering company said in a statement: “i-to-i Travel regrets to confirm that two female clients from London have been involved in an acid attack in Stone Town on the island of Zanzibar on the evening of the 7th August 2013. They were flown to Dar es Salaam in mainland Tanzania for medical treatment and have now been released from hospital.”
The company said the motive for the assault was unknown, and that it was awaiting a report from the local authorities.
The statement continued: “All our efforts remain focused on ensuring [the women] are supported whilst assisting them and their relatives with the arrangements for their return home. i-to-i Travel is working with the authorities in their investigations and continues to liaise closely with the British Consulate in Tanzania.”
The company said an investigation would be launched as soon as possible.
A spokeswoman for the Foreign Office said: “We are concerned to hear of an attack on two British citizens on Zanzibar on 7 August. We are providing consular assistance and are in contact with the Tanzanian authorities.”
Jakaya Kikwete, Tanzania’s president, is reported to have visited the women at the Aga Khan Hospital in Dar es Salaam and promised that the men responsible for the “shameful” attack would be found.
i-to-i Travel, which is based in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, runs gap year trips to Africa, Asia, central and South America, and Australia, with trips to teach in Zanzibar starting at £669 for two weeks.
The attack is thought to be the first such assault on foreigners, although religious violence has recently flared up on the archipelago, which lies around 22 miles off the coast of mainland Tanzania.
In February this year, a Roman Catholic priest was shot dead and a church torched. In November, a Muslim cleric was attacked with acid.
Around 75,000 Britons travel to Tanzania each year, according to the FCO, which says that although most visits are trouble-free, “violent and armed crime is increasing”.
In advice on its website, it says: “Mugging, bag snatching (especially from passing cars) and robbery have increased throughout the country.”
The Foreign Office warns travellers to take sensible precautions to protect themselves and their belongings, noting that incidents have occurred in Stone Town and on popular tourist beaches.