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Police Investigate Explosion in Zanzibar

Bomb-damaged office of Chama Cha Mapinduzi
Police are investigating an explosion that destroyed an office of Zanzibar's ruling party in the latest of a series of pre-election violence. Four suspects are in custody following Sunday night's explosion at an office of Zanzibar's ruling-party Chama Cha Mapinduzi, known as the CCM. No one was killed or injured in the explosion.

Zanzibar's deputy director of criminal investigations, Ramadhani Kinyogo, tells VOA police are currently interrogating the suspects.

He would not say whether or not the explosion was a politically motivated attack, or if it is part of recent pre-election conflicts between the ruling CCM and the opposition party Civic United Front, the CUF.

"This is a criminal offense or act, and what is important to be proved before court is the motive," he said. "If someone is a political figure who has done it, well, almost everybody in the country here is a political member. Therefore I cannot comment as to whether he is a CUF member or any other Chama Chama (CCM)."

CCM's deputy secretary-general Saleh Ferouz tells VOA his party suspects that the rival CUF is responsible for Sunday's explosion.

"We believe that because it is normal for this opposition party to exercise this style of what you can call, not campaign, but to try to terrorize people," he said.

But a desk officer in CUF's department of youth affairs, Juma Sanani, denies that his party was responsible, saying that at least two of the suspects in custody were in a mosque at the time of the explosion.

"So this is the same story: the CCM did this and then they say that CUF did this," he said. "This is what CCM did during elections every year."

Sunday's explosion is the latest in a series of conflicts between the ruling party and the opposition leading up to Zanzibar's elections, scheduled for the end of October.

Within the past couple of months, arsonists had set fire to the home of CUF leader Abbas Muhunzi, voter registration had been suspended twice because of street fights between supporters of the two parties, the authorities have banned political gatherings, and a ruling party official was murdered last week.

The semi-autonomous islands of Zanzibar united with mainland Tanzania in 1964 to form a common, union government.

Zanzibar has its own president and has jurisdiction over the islands' education, social and cultural affairs, among other things, while the mainland is responsible for such programs as defense, immigration, and foreign affairs.

The CCM has ruled Zanzibar since 1964. The islands held their first multi-party elections in 1995, which CCM won amidst allegations of election fraud.

National and international human rights groups have criticized the CCM and Tanzanian authorities for beating, harassing, and killing opposition supporters.

The islands, a popular tourist destination, are predominantly Muslim. Foreign observers tend to monitor Zanzibari politics closely because there are some fears of the islands becoming a terrorist enclave.