Acid attackers target Western teens volunteering at school on Zanzibar

Two British teenagers who were volunteering at a school were the victims of an acid attack, authorities on the Indian Ocean island of Zanzibar said Thursday.

"The attackers approached the girls as they were walking on a street at around 7:15 p.m. [Wednesday] and threw acid at them," Zanzibar Urban West regional police commander Mkadam Khamis Mkadam told the wire service. “The victims sustained facial, chest and back injuries from the acid attack."

Television images showed one girl obviously in pain in the back of a car at the Zanzibar airport, before they were flown to Tanzania's commercial capital Dar es Salaam.

The U.K. government said it was helping the two 18-year-olds.

“We’re concerned to hear of the attack on two British nationals in Zanzibar on Aug. 7,” a British Foreign Office spokesman said. “We’re providing consular assistance and are in contact with the Tanzanian authorities.”

Zanzibar is popular with international tourists, but suffered a wave of deadly protests last year as supporters of an Islamist group repeatedly clashed with the police, Reuters said.

However, the police described the attack as "an isolated incident" and refused to link it to tension between majority Muslims and Christians on the island.

A Zanzibar Muslim leader, Sheikh Fadhil Suleiman Soraga, was hospitalized with acid burns in a November attack.

Two Christian leaders were killed early this year in separate attacks.

A separatist group in Zanzibar, Uamsho (Awakening), is pushing for the archipelago to exit from its 1964 union with mainland Tanzania, which is ruled as a secular country. Uamsho wants to introduce Islamic Sharia law in Zanzibar.

Reuters contributed to this report.