Last Friday, at least four people were injured in a grenade attack carried out by two suspects who got away in the aftermath of the blast in Msolwa Ujamaa, located in Tanzania’s Kilombero district.
According to Tanzanian outlet The Citizen, the suspects used the grenade as a diversionary tactic to get away when locals became suspicious of their activities:
“The eyewitnesses said the two suspects arrived at the village using a hired motorcycle, and they asked for a place where they could withdraw money from the mobile phone money transfer service.
The suspects looked very strange and they were not settled, something that made us order them to sit down as we tried to contact police,” one villager said.
“As we were contacting police one of the suspects tossed the explosive to the villagers, causing confusion. Then, they ran away.”
There is no evidence yet that the men are linked with apparent jihadists who were arrested just a few miles north in Kidatu just last month.
As a result, these two suspects may just be grenade-wielding criminals in the same area.
Even if these men were aspiring militants, it would be difficult to categorize their affiliation because there is currently little info about the organization of jihadists in Tanzania.
Tanzanian militants have released very few public messages to explain their aims or strategy, apart from vague threats aimed at Tanzania’s Muslim president Jakaya Kikwete.
As a result, it is more difficult to tell whether there is any central leadership and if they are more inspired by global events (such as the exploits of ISIS) or Tanzanian politics (such as the controversy over the proposed new constitution and October general elections).
In addition, aspiring militants are just learning how they can operate, acquire weapons and tactical knowledge, and expand their relationships with al-Shabaab or other jihadist groups.
Relationship with al-Shabaab?
The degree to which al-Shabaab has command and control of jihadists in Tanzania is not clear — even though it is apparent that the group has successfully recruited Tanzanians to fight in Somalia.
In the past, al-Shabaab operatives allegedly have been behind indoctrination efforts, and a group of suspected militants training in the southern Mtwara region in October 2013 were found with a CD entitled “Mogadishu Sniper”.
But, attackers in Tanzania in the last few years have utilized cheap explosives or acid rather than engaging in high-profile and tactically sophisticated siege operations used by al-Shabaab recently.
So, whether or not Tanzanian militants are receiving support from al-Shabaab, they do not appear to have the ability to mimic the group’s capabilities for now.
To reduce the risk that they can reach that level of sophistication, local authorities have now requested more police and transport vehicles to search for criminals who may be hiding in the nearby Udzungwa mountains, according to local reports.
It is unclear if help really is on the way.
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