Four dead, church torched in Kenya riots after Muslim cleric killed
Posted Friday, October 4 2013 at 20:19
Mombasa - Four rioters died and a church was torched amid gunfire Friday, as police in Kenya's port city of Mombasa quashed protests sparked by the killing of a Muslim cleric.
Battles broke out as armed paramilitary police moved towards a mosque, whose leaders have been accused of links to Somalia's Islamist Shebab, insurgents who massacred 67 in Nairobi's Westgate shopping mall last month.
Angry protestors took to the streets 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 extremist cleric last year that provoked days of deadly riots.
"We will not tolerate unruly youth taking over the town," Mombasa police chief Kipkemoi Rop said, adding that 24 had been arrested.
A Salvation Army church was torched, but firemen brought the blaze under control.
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.
Riots, which began after midday Muslim prayers, had largely calmed by late afternoon with Kenya's national crisis centre reporting only "sporadic violence" and stone-throwing youths.
The crisis centre said three people died of stab wounds, while the Red Cross said another hit by gunfire died in hospital. Seven others were wounded.
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 claim.
During rioting, thick smoke from burning tyres rose around Mombasa's Masjid Musa mosque -- where both Rogo and Ismail used to preach -- as police fired tear gas and youths hurled stones in return.
Salim Abdallah, a witness, said he saw one man who had been shot in the belly "bleeding profusely" with his clothes soaked in blood.
"We just pray for him," Abdallah said.
It was not clear who was responsible for the gunfire.
Police claim control
Sporadic clashes and looting were reported in several districts of the city, but as dusk approached, the police insisted they were in control.