TWO British teenagers have been injured after having acid thrown in their faces during a volunteering trip on the African island of Zanzibar.
Kirstie Trup and Katie Gee, both from London, suffered injuries to their heads, chests and hands, and were transferred to a hospital on the Tanzanian mainland for treatment after being attacked on Wednesday evening.
The 18-year-olds had been on the final week of their stay and were working as volunteers at a nursery school on the island, popular for its idyllic white beaches and historic buildings.
They were due to board a flight home last night following the ordeal.
The pair were attacked as they walked in Stone Town, the old part of the capital Zanzibar City, which is a Unesco world heritage site.
Police said that two men on a moped threw a corrosive substance at them.
Earlier reports had suggested their injuries were severe but last night medics confirmed they were relatively “mild” and pictures showed the pair walking unaided into a mainland hospital.
In a statement outside the Trup home yesterday evening, a family friend talked on behalf of the girls’ mothers, Rochelle Trup and Nicky Gee. She said: “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.
“We understand that they will be flying home overnight.”
Jakaya Kikwete, Tanzania’s president, visited Miss Gee and Miss Trup in hospital, and pledged that their attackers would be found.
“It’s a shameful attack that tarnishes the image of our country. I order security agents to speed up the investigations and arrest the suspects,” he said.
Bashir Ismail, from the group Art in Tanzania, said the pair had been teaching at the St Monica nursery school, linked to the Catholic Church, whilst also volunteering for his arts charity after finishing their A-levels.
“The two attackers passed by several white tourists in the area and threw acid after reaching them, which raises suspicion of a planned attack,” he said.
Oli Cohen, 21, a friend of Miss Gee, a former pupil at the exclusive Francis Holland School in Chelsea, said the teenager had been “attacked and harassed” two weeks ago.
“The girls were walking through the town singing on Ramadan when a Muslim lady came up to her shouting. She lost her temper and reacted violently – and hit her in the face for singing,” he told a newspaper.
“I don’t know what song it was but it wouldn’t have been anything excessively aggressive or rude – they’re so well-mannered and respectful. They had gone to the town to do voluntary charity work.
“It was an isolated incident and I don’t believe it had any connection. She didn’t suffer any serious injuries, but they were both extremely shaken up by it – not enough to come home but I know they felt uneasy being in public. Some people would stare or say things to them.”
Mr Cohen claimed that the teenagers may also have been singled out for being Jewish. He added: “I think white, good-looking north London Jewish girls walking around in Zanzibar always makes them a target, as it’s a Muslim country.
“It’s a beautiful location and it was a trip that was supposed to be special for them, one to treasure forever. But it’s ended in disaster.”
Katie’s mother, Nicky Gee, made it clear that both of the girls were aware of how to behave appropriately in a Muslim country.
She told Sky News: “They were dressed appropriately on Ramadan… it’s just a vicious attack on two young girls.”
The teenagers were on a trip organised by Kent-based
i-to-i Travel, a gap year volunteering company, when the attack took place.
I-to-i Travel said the girls had been released from a hospital in the Tanzanian capital, Dar es Salaam, where they had been flown after the attack.
“All our efforts remain focused on ensuring they are supported whilst assisting them and their relatives with the arrangements for their return home”, the firm said.
“The motive for the incident is as yet not known and we will await the report from the local authorities in Zanzibar before any comment can be made.”
It said the safety of those on its trips were of “paramount importance”.
A spokeswoman for the Foreign Office said: “We are aware of an incident and are providing consular assistance.”