Four Saudis held over Tanzania church bombing

DAR ES SALAAM Mon May 6, 2013 9:25am EDT

Tanzania's Vice President Mohamed Gharib Bilal consoles a faithful at Mount Meru Hospital, who was injured during an explosion at the new Catholic church, in the northern Tanzanian town of Arusha, May 6, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

Tanzania's Vice President Mohamed Gharib Bilal consoles a faithful at Mount Meru Hospital, who was injured during an explosion at the new Catholic church, in the northern Tanzanian town of Arusha, May 6, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Stringer

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DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) - Tanzania has arrested four men from Saudi Arabia and four Tanzanians in connection with the bombing of church on Sunday that killed two people, an attack that has heightened sectarian tensions in the east African nation.

Investigators said they were still determining the type of device used in the attack on the Catholic church in Arusha, a town in the north of the nation of about 45 million people that is roughly evenly split between Muslims and Christians.

A statement from President Jakaya Kikwete's office on Monday said two people had now died from the blast after the death toll had previously been put at one. Sixty people were injured.

The Vatican's ambassador to Tanzania, Archbishop Francisco Montecillo Padilla, was attending the official opening of the church when the explosion occurred. He escaped unharmed.

"So far eight people have been arrested, including four nationals from Saudi Arabia and four Tanzanians," Arusha Regional Commissioner Magesa Mulongo told Reuters by telephone.

He said the Saudis, aged between 30 and 45, had arrived at an airport near Arusha on Saturday and were detained late on Sunday trying to cross the border to neighboring Kenya. Mulongo said they were being questioned regarding the incident.

Arusha lies near the snow-capped peak of Mount Kilimanjaro in a part of Tanzania that is predominantly Christian.

Highlighting tensions between the religious communities, two Christian leaders were killed in Tanzania's semi-autonomous, predominantly Muslim islands of Zanzibar earlier this year and there have been attacks on Muslim leaders and mosques.

"We are trying to establish if it was a home-made explosive device or a specialized bomb," Tanzania's director of criminal investigation, Robert Manumba, told Reuters.

The president's office said Kikwete had cut short his state visit to Kuwait following the bomb attack on the church.

(Reporting by Fumbuka Ng'wanakilala; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Alison Williams)

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