UK

Zanzibar Acid Attack Pair Katie Gee And Kirstie Trup To Fly Home

08/08/2013 19:55 BST | Updated 11/08/2013 08:53 BST

Two British teenagers subjected to an acid attack on the Indian Ocean island of Zanzibar are due to fly home tonight, their travel company said.

Katie Gee and Kirstie Trup, both 18, are recovering after the attack by men on a motorbike as they walked along a road on the island.

The teenagers, from north London, were in the last week of a trip as volunteer teachers to the predominantly Muslim island when men on a moped reportedly threw a corrosive substance at their heads and chests.

In a statement, i-to-i Travel, which organised their visit, said: "We can now confirm that both individuals are scheduled to be repatriated to the UK.

"They are scheduled to leave Tanzania later this evening."

The news came as it was reported that the pair had previously been attacked during their stay.

One of their friends, Oli Cohen, 21, told the Telegraph: "Katie was attacked two weeks ago by a Muslim woman for singing during Ramadan.

"She was shocked as it just came from out of the blue - but she wasn't scared enough to come home. She stayed out there to finish her trip and volunteering."

Zanzibar is an archipelago of islands in the Indian Ocean around 22 miles off the mainland.

The semi-autonomous region of Tanzania is predominantly Muslim and has been the scene of some religious violence in recent years.

Last November a cleric was hospitalised in an acid attack, and two Christian leaders were killed earlier this year.

Mkadam Khamis, a police commander on the island, told the Associated Press the teenagers were teaching at a primary school affiliated with the Anglican Church.

Miss Gee's mother Nicky told the Telegraph: "I've spoken to my daughter - her whole face and body is burnt.

"It was an acid attack on two English girls.

"They were dressed appropriately - they just attacked two young girls."

The attack took place in the Stone Town area of Zanzibar's eponymous capital city.

i-to-i Travel, which is based in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, runs gap year trips to parts of Africa, Asia, central and South America and Australia.

Trips to teach in Zanzibar, based in Stone Town, start at £669 for two weeks, according to its website.

In a statement, i-to-i Travel said the pair had been released from a hospital in the Tanzanian capital, Dar es Salaam, where they had been flown for medical treatment after the "acid attack".

"All our efforts remain focused on ensuring they are supported whilst assisting them and their relatives with the arrangements for their return home," it said.

The Foreign Office travel advice for Tanzania warns that although most visits to the country are trouble-free, "violent and armed crime is increasing".

The advice, available on its website, says: "Mugging, bag snatching (especially from passing cars) and robbery have increased throughout the country."

It adds: "In Zanzibar, incidents have taken place in Stone Town and on popular tourist beaches."

Jakaya Kikwete, Tanzania's president, is reported to have visited the women at the Aga Khan Hospital in Dar es Salaam and promised that the men responsible for the "shameful" attack would be found.

The women, who both have Jewish roots, went on a month-long tour of Israel in 2011 organised by the Federation of Zionist Youth (FZY).

FZY's director in Britain Harry Jardine said: "They spent a month in Israel volunteering, touring the country and learning the history of the area.

"Katie stayed involved but it was not a huge involvement, she took part in our leadership programme.

"She is an engaged, intelligent, very sunny girl - an absolute pleasure to meet. I spent a month away with her and there was never any issue.

"When I heard the news I was shocked and I would like to wish the girls a speedy recovery."

FZY describes itself as a Jewish Zionist youth movement which aims for its members to "feel comfortable to express themselves, develop a strong Jewish and Zionist identity and have amazing, unforgettable experiences".

Mr Jardine said he was not in a position to comment on whether the pair may have been targeted because of their ethnicity.

In a statement outside the Trup home, a family friend said on behalf of the girls' mothers, Rochelle Trup and Nicky Gee: "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.

"We appreciate all the interest and support we have received from the media but we would ask that we are left alone until we have been reunited with our daughters."