London teenagers back in UK after Zanzibar acid attack
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Two teenage British girls have returned home to the UK for specialist burns treatment after acid was thrown in their faces on the Indian Ocean island of Zanzibar. The island’s authorities have offered a reward for the capture of their attackers.
Two British teenage girls arrived home on Friday badly burned after acid was hurled in their faces in Zanzibar, while the island’s authorities offered a reward for the capture of their attackers.
Katie Gee and Kirstie Trup, both 18, were flown to a Royal Air Force base in London and were taken straight to a hospital for further treatment, according to media reports.
The teenagers, both Londoners who had been working as volunteer teachers in Zanzibar, were attacked on Wednesday by two men on a motorbike, in the first such attack on foreigners on the Indian Ocean island.
The girls’ families have released a photograph of one of the victims’ injuries, showing dark burns seared across her jaw, neck and chest.
Television pictures showed two ambulances driving to meet a private jet at the RAF Northolt base in west London.
The girls, close friends who were due to start university in the coming months, are believed to have been taken straight to the specialist burns unit of a London hospital.
Katie’s father Jeremy Gee described the burns as “horrendous”.
“We are absolutely devastated,” he told The Daily Telegraph newspaper.
“The level of the burns are beyond imagination.”
Marc Trup, Kirstie’s father, said the girls were “inconsolable”.
Zanzibar’s Tourism Minister Said Ali Mbarouk offered a reward of 10 million Tanzanian shillings ($6,200, 4,600 euros) for information leading to the arrest of the suspects, describing the attack as “a shame on the people of Zanzibar”.
Tourism is the lifeblood of the semi-autonomous Tanzanian island, which is famed for its pristine white-sand beaches.
“We have to work harder to make sure that Zanzibar is safe for visitors and citizens,” Mbarouk said.
Seven people have already been questioned over the attack, according to Zanzibar police.
Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, who visited the two young women in hospital after they were flown from the island to Tanzania’s largest city Dar es Salaam, said the attack had “tarnished the image” of the country.
Tanzania is predominantly Muslim, and the attack happened at the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan as people were beginning to celebrate the Eid al-Fitr holiday.
Some of the island’s more conservative Muslims object to foreign tourists who wear revealing clothes, as well as bars selling alcohol.
One of the girls had posted on her Twitter page that she had been hit by a Muslim woman in the street earlier in the trip, apparently for singing during Ramadan. There were also reports that the pair had argued with a local shopkeeper.
But their families insist they had been careful to dress modestly while out on the streets of Zanzibar, and to avoid any prominent displays of their Jewish heritage. Both girls are from Jewish families.
“Both families are extremely upset and distressed at this completely unprovoked attack on their lovely daughters, who had only gone to Zanzibar with good intention,” a spokesman for the girls’ mothers said in a statement outside the Trup family home in north London on Thursday.
The girls were attacked as they strolled through Stone Town, Zanzibar’s historical centre.
They had been coming to the end of a three-week placement teaching at a local school, organised through i-to-i Travel, a British company that organises gap year work.
Acid has been used in several recent attacks in Zanzibar, although this is the first assault of its kind targeting foreigners on the holiday island.
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