Tanzania security organs are investigating reports that an international terrorist group is planning to attack the country.
The Parliamentary Defence and Security Committee held a crisis meeting last week during which Speaker Job Ndugai told MPs that “all top security organs of the state are on high alert.”
The national security debate has emerged following the recent killings of eight policemen by gunmen who also vanished with weapons in Kibiti District.
Police in Dar es Salaam say intelligence had established that the killers of the eight policemen were hiding in the city.
Sources say the terror network is gaining a foothold in the country with reported recruitment, training and radicalisation of the youth in the Coastal region, Tanga, Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar and Lindi.
The sources said there is a connection between the latest killings and another one that happened on July 5, 2015 when an armed gang stormed Sitakishari Police Station in Dar es Salaam and killed four policemen before disappearing with 17 guns.
Police sources also say a gang based in the Amboni caves in Tanga is suspected to have killed eight people in June last year out of fear that the victims would reveal information to authorities about accomplices of the group.
In the brutal event, the eight men, including a village chairman were rounded up and taken to a spot where they were beheaded.
On June 27, 2016 police in Dar es Salaam had shot dead one Mohammad Abdallah in connection with the Tanga killings, with Dar es Salaam Special Police Zone Commander Simon Sirro saying the force had made progress in the war against terrorism.
Security sources said recruitment of youth into terrorist networks of ISIS and Al Shabaab from the districts of Kibiti, Mkuranga and Rufiji of the Coast region have been on the rise.
“Some are being trained in local camps in the forests and some are being taken to countries with powerful terrorist organisations like Somalia,” the source said.
Organised criminals prefer the Coastal region because of its vast forests that serve as hideouts and the presence of vulnerable residents who can be recruited to join terrorist groups.
The region with scarce resources is predominantly inhabited by Muslims.
Commander Sirro once admitted that there were terror-related groups, which had been recruiting children for military training in various hideouts in the forests neighbouring Dar es Salaam.
The training entailed skills in fighting, killing and gun management.
In Kilongoni forests in Vikindu Coast region, police last year discovered a hideout where young men were being taken through military tactics for operations targeting police and non Muslims in their attacks.