Arusha — POLICE here have botched a terror-linked criminal network and arrested two gangs of 16 people believed to be members of Al-Shabaab terrorist group, with twenty-five other suspects having been traced.
Translated as "the youth", Al-Shabaab is a Somalia based cell of the militant Islamist group, Al-Qaeda.
The Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI), Mr Issaya Mungulu, told reporters that eight of the suspects, some of them respectable business people in Arusha, were operating underground militia bases that were in the process of recruiting and trafficking young Tanzanians to join the outlawed militia.
The arrested men in the first group of eight have been identified as Swalehe Hamisi, Abdallah Yassin, Sudi-Nassib Lusuma, Abdallah-Juma Nyakwela, Abdulrazak Mohammed, Abdullah Athuman- Labia and Hassan Zuberi Saidi, all alleged to run stealth recruiting bases.
After recruitment, the young people get initiated into terrorism before being trafficked out of the country to join a number of illegal militia groups.
"We are still searching for 25 other suspects who are also members of global terror groups but happen to be at large, having gone underground upon hearing that their fellow counterparts have been apprehended," Mr Mungulu reported.
The police have also nabbed seven other suspects in the second group, who are closely related to the network. However, this other group has been found to be involved with the series of bombing incidents in this city on the slopes of Mount Meru for the last 12 months.
The alleged terrorists, all men aged between 25 and 46 years are Abdulkarim Thabit- Hasia, Rajab Phiri-Hemed, Ali-Hamis Kidaanya, Abdallah Maginga-Wambwa, Shaaban Abdallah-Wawa, Ali-Hamis Jumanne and Yassin Hashim-Sanga.
Apparently, two other suspects, Abdallah Athuman-Labia and Hassan Zuberi-Said, who were tried in the first terrorism case, have also been accused of involvement in the bombing alongside the second group of accused persons.
Meanwhile, a man, Jaffar Hassan Mondo, has been nabbed by security officers here after he was found attempting to apply for a Tanzanian passport using fake names.
All 17 suspects have already been taken to court here where they appeared before Resident Magistrate Mustafa Siyani. Two of the accused, however, were reported to be seriously wounded from the showdown with the police shortly before their arrests.
These had their charges read before them while admitted to Mount Meru Hospital. Charges facing the suspects include, murder, attempted murder, human trafficking and recruiting people for the purposes of enlisting them into international criminal set-ups.
There have been five incidences of bombing here, including the ones at Olasiti Catholic Parish, a political rally in Kaloleni, at the Arusha Night Pub in Mianzini and at another pub (Washington Bar) in the city centre. At least eight people have died and over 70 others injured in the explosions.