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Kenya firebrand cleric’s death sparks protest

Kenyan police and Muslim youths have clashed in Mombasa following Friday prayers, witnesses said, days after a firebrand Muslim cleric was gunned down in the port city.

Security was tight and tensions high around the Musa mosque, seen by Kenyan authorities as a terrorist propaganda hub and recruiting ground for people planning terror attacks.

A prominent cleric closely associated with the mosque, Abubaker Shariff Ahmed better known as Makaburi, was shot dead in Mombasa on Tuesday.

Makaburi was a vocal supporter of al-Qaeda and Somalia’s al-Shabab rebel group and prior to his death had accused Kenyan security forces of seeking to kill him.

After Friday’s prayers, worshippers and police fought brief running battles including stone-throwing and the use of tear gas.

“When our sheikhs are being killed they [the police] are just there, they are just looking, but they are not doing anything. We as a Muslim society just want peace,” one worshipper told AFP.

‘Leading facilitator’

Makaburi was on a UN sanctions lists, accused of being a “leading facilitator and recruiter of young Kenyan Muslims for violent militant activity in Somalia”, and of having “strong ties” with al-Shabab leaders.

The cleric, who was in his 50s, had also openly praised the al-Shabab fighters who stormed Nairobi’s Westgate mall in September last year, killing at least 67 people in a four-day siege that was carried out in retaliation for the presence of Kenyan troops in Somalia.

In August 2012, outspoken preacher Aboud Rogo Mohammed was also gunned down, and in October last year his successor, Sheikh Ibrahim Ismail, met the same fate on a road near Mombasa, again sparking riots.

On Friday, Human Rights Watch said Kenya must carry out a thorough investigation into Makaburi’s killing or else risk an escalation of religious violence.

“Gunning down clerics in the streets is only making a bad situation worse,” said Leslie Lefkow, deputy Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

“The authorities need to put an end to this cycle of violence, and they should start by finding out who is behind these killings and prosecuting them.”

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