Zanzibar - Two young British women were recovering after unknown attackers in the Indian Ocean island of Zanzibar threw acid into their faces, the first such assault against foreigners in the popular tourist destination, police said Thursday.
Late Wednesday night two men on a moped threw the acid at the 18-year old women as they strolled through the streets of Stone Town, the historical centre of the capital of the semi-autonomous Tanzanian archipelago, splashing their faces, chests and hands.
"Police in Zanzibar have launched a manhunt, and we ask for public assistance in identifying the attackers," deputy police commissioner Mkadam Khamis said.
The attack on the women, both working as volunteer teachers at a school on the island, came at the end of the Muslim holy month of fasting of Ramadan, and as people began to celebrate the Eid al-Fitr holiday.
"The motive for the attack on the volunteers aged 18 years, has not been established. Investigations are on until we apprehend the criminals," Khamis said.
The women were flown to Tanzania's economic capital Dar es Salaam for treatment, where their wounds were said to be "not life threatening", said Saleh Mohammed Jidawi, a senior health ministry official.
Britain's Foreign Office said they were "providing consular assistance" to the women, but gave no further details.
Tourism is the main foreign currency earner for Zanzibar, famed for its white-sand beaches and historical buildings in Stone Town, listed as a world heritage site by UNESCO.
"It may threaten tourists," said Abdul Samad, chairman of the Zanzibar Association for Tourism Investors.
Tensions between the majority Muslim population and Christians in the archipelago -- some three percent of the 1.2 million people on the islands -- have been on the increase in recent years, as well as on mainland Tanzania.
In Tanzania, where both Muslims and Christians each make up around a third of the population, the communities traditionally live peacefully side-by-side.
In Zanzibar, some more conservative elements of the Muslim community object to foreign tourists who wear revealing clothes, as well as bars selling alcohol.
There have been a series of attacks in the archipelago, including an acid attack on a Muslim cleric in November, and the shooting death of a Catholic priest in February.
In December another priest was shot and wounded.
Two years ago, youths hurled petrol bombs into at least three bars in Zanzibar in protest at the sale of alcohol.