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Rioters torch Kenyan church after Muslim cleric killed


Latest update : 2013-10-04

Police fired teargas at rioters who torched a church in the Kenyan port city of Mombasa on Friday, a day after gunmen killed a popular Muslim cleric. Sheikh Ibrahim Ismail and three acquaintances died in a drive-by shooting late on Thursday.

Rioters set fire to a church in Kenya's port city of Mombasa Friday, in furious battles with the police sparked by the killing of a Muslim cleric, police said.

Witnesses said one protester was shot and wounded, as armed paramilitary police moved towards a mosque, whose leaders have been accused of links to Somalia's Islamist Shebab, insurgents who attacked a Nairobi shopping mall last month.

Riots were sparked after unknown gunmen assassinated a popular Muslim preacher and his three companions in a drive-by shooting late on Thursday, a killing that mirrored the murder of another cleric last year which provoked days of deadly riots.

Radical preachers have said the killing Thursday was an "execution" by the police, claims the force has denied.

"They have burnt the Salvation Army church and we are now trying to repulse them with tear gas," a senior police officer said.

Slain cleric Sheikh Ibrahim Ismail was viewed as the successor to Aboud Rogo Mohammed, a controversial preacher accused of links to Somalia's Shebab insurgents, who was shot dead in August 2012.

Like in the case of Rogo, radical preachers have said the killing of Ismail was an "execution" by the police, which denied the claims.

Thick smoke apparently from burning tyres rose around Mombasa's Masjid Musa mosque -- where both Rogo and Ismail used to preach -- while police fired tear gas and youths hurled stones in return. Several gunshots were also heard.

One wounded protester with his clothes soaked in blood was rushed to a nearby clinic.

"He was shot in the stomach... he is bleeding profusely and we just pray for him," said Salim Abdallah, a witness.

It was not clear who fired the shot.

Mombasa is Kenya's main port and a major tourist hub, popular with visitors coming to enjoy the white sand beaches on the Indian Ocean coastline.

The deaths follow attacks last month by the Shebab, who launched a deadly assault on an upmarket Nairobi shopping mall, killing at least 67 people in a four-day bloodbath.

The Islamists have since threatened "rivers of blood" would flow in fresh attacks if Kenya does not pull its troops out of Somalia.

Rogo was on US and UN sanctions lists for allegedly supporting the Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab, including through recruitment and fundraising.

Another radical cleric, Abubaker Shariff Ahmed -- known more commonly by his nickname "Makaburi" or "grave" in Swahili -- spoke at the site of the attack, where he accused the police of the "outright execution" of his comrades.

"The police are killing people while saying it is a war against terrorism, this is a war against Islam," Makaburi said, a former close colleague of Rogo and also on a UN sanctions lists accused of recruiting and fundraising for the Shebab. "These people have been executed."

Local police chief Julius Wanjohi confirmed the killing of four men late on Thursday, and appealed to the public for information.

Salim Abdi was the only person in the car to survive the attack.

"There were gunshots and the vehicle veered off the road, I don't know how I walked out of the vehicle alive," Abdi said. "All four others I was with in the vehicle died on the spot."

An AFP reporter at the scene said the car, the windows shattered and the doors riddled with bullet holes, had smashed into the verge off the main coastal highway running north out of Mombasa.

Some bullet casings lay scattered around the car, suggesting that shots had been fired after the vehicle had stopped, while Ismail's bloodied body lay slumped on the backseat with his companions.



Date created : 2013-10-04


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