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Four killed in Kenyan riots after slaying of Islamic cleric

Law EnforcementShootingsNational GovernmentReligious Conflicts

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- Four people were killed and a Christian church was burned in riots in the Kenyan city of Mombasa on Friday that followed the killing of a Muslim cleric the previous night.

The Kenya Red Cross Society said seven other people were injured in the violence that raged in sections of the port city for much of the day. Schools and businesses were closed down as the protesters from the Muslim community spilled onto the streets after Friday prayers.

Religious and ethnic tension in Kenya have grown in the wake of last month's Nairobi mall attack, which was carried out by the Somali terrorist group Shabab. While political leaders have urged the nation to remain united, many Kenyans on Twitter have called for the closure of Somali refugee camps or the removal of Somalis from Eastleigh neighborhood, the main base for the long-standing Somali diaspora in Kenya.

Sheik Ibrahim Rogo Omar and three associates were slain Thursday night by unidentified gunmen while driving home after Rogo preached at the Masjid Musa mosque. The attack closely resembled the killing of Rogo's associate, Muslim cleric Sheik Aboud Rogo Mohamed, who was shot by gunmen last year sparking days of riots.

The mosque has a reputation for preaching a radical strand of Islam.

Muslim leaders in Mombasa blamed the government's Anti-terrorism Police Unit for Thursday's killings, according to Kenyan media reports.

"The ATPU were here. Why have they run way? What are we going to do next? And why are they killing us? We have not killed any one but the police are killing innocent Muslims," said one Mombasa cleric, Sheik Abubakar Sheriff, also known as Makaburi, according to Kenya's Daily Nation newspaper. He called the killing an assassination in revenge for the Nairobi mall attack.

Makaburi also said the United States, Israel and Western governments had instigated Thursday's shooting, saying they "do not want Muslims to talk about jihad."

A recent U.N. report on Somalia linked Makaburi to the terror threat in East Africa, accusing him of providing operational guidance to terror groups -- an assertion he denies. He is under U.N. sanction for allegedly being  "a leading facilitator and recruiter of young Kenyan Muslims for violent militant activity in Somalia."

Both of the preachers who were shot were seen by Kenyan authorities as radicals who may have been associated with Shabab. According to authorities, radical preachers in Mombasa and Eastleigh help recruit young people to fight for Shabab in Somalia, training some of them to become suicide bombers.

But police have been accused by human rights groups of taking a heavy-handed approach, conducting violent raids in Eastleigh, often rounding up people randomly, jailing them and demanding bribes to set them free.

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Twitter: @latimesdixon

robyn.dixon@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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