Mombasa riots stretch into second day as extremist group tries to rally Muslims

Kenyan police fired tear gas at gangs of youths in Mombasa Tuesday as riots continued over the killing of a Muslim cleric with links to the extremist group Al Shabab.

(AP Photo)
A riot police officer near to a tire on fire, lit by Muslim youths, outside Masjid Musa Mosque, in Majengo, Mombasa, Kenya, Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012. Police and protesters fought running battles after the killing of a radical Islamic preacher.

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Kenyan police fired tear gas at youths rioting in the streets of Mombasa the day after a Muslim cleric – who the United States and United Nations say was linked to the extremist group Al Shabab – was shot and killed there.

Yesterday, youths threw stones at police who arrived at the scene of the killing of Sheikh Aboud Rogo, and violence continued overnight. Barricades of burning tires were set up throughout a Muslim neighborhood in Mombasa, according to the Kenyan paper The Star, cars have been torched, and at least four churches have been vandalized. One person is confirmed dead as a result of the violence.

In July, the Muslim cleric Aboud Rogo was identified in a leaked UN report as a prominent recruiter for Al Shabab, an East African militant group with links to Al Qaeda. That same month, the US implemented sanctions against Mr. Rogo “for engaging in acts that directly or indirectly threaten the peace, security or stability of Somalia,” specifically for recruiting and raising money for Al Shabab, which is based there, according to Agence France-Presse. He was one of three Kenyans under US sanctions because of their ties to Al Shabab, on whose behalf they are accused of recruiting non-Somalis and conducting fundraising.

On Monday, gunmen sprayed bullets at Rogo's car while he was driving through the southeastern coastal city of Mombasa (see map) with six other people. His wife was shot in the leg and taken to a nearby hospital, Rogo's lawyer, Mbugua Mureithi, told The Associated Press, but his daughter and father were not injured. Many Muslims in Mombasa have blamed the shooting on the police, according to Reuters.

But the murder of Rogo has raised concerns about a worrying trend of extrajudicial killings in Kenya, Bloomberg reports. Sheikh Rogo was awaiting trial on terrorism charges.

The killing on Monday of Aboud Rogo fits into a pattern of extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances of suspected terrorists that is allegedly being orchestrated by Kenyan police, say Kenyan human rights groups….

The Muslim Human Rights Forum condemned Rogo's murder, calling it an "extrajudicial killing" and calling for an "an end to targeted killings and enforced disappearances of terrorism suspects."

"The murder of Aboud Rogo is a terrible crime," Ben Rawlence, Senior Researcher at Human Rights Watch told The Christian Science Monitor yesterday. "The fact that he is not the first suspect to have died while awaiting trial will only raise suspicions. It's another sad day for Kenya."

Al Shabab called on Muslims in Kenya today to “protect their religion at all costs and boycott next year’s presidential election, and condemned what it said was a ‘witch-hunt’ against Muslims by the Kenyan authorities,” reports Reuters.

"Muslims must take the matter into their own hands, stand united against the Kuffar [non-believers] and take all necessary measures to protect their religion, their honour, their property and their lives from the enemies of Islam," Al Shabab wrote on Twitter.

Merchants reported looting in Mombasa today, Kenya’s second-largest city and a popular tourist destination. Though the gangs of youths are reportedly focusing more of their anger on the police, the attacks on churches have raised fears that the violence could become increasingly religiously based. Mombasa has seen attacks by Somali militants in the past that have fueled tension between Christians and Muslims, according to Reuters.

Mombasa has a big Muslim minority.… [And] church leaders scrapped plans for a peaceful march for fear it might incite further clashes in a country where overall relations with minority Muslims have been relatively good.

Kenya’s Prime Minister Raila Odinga said his government was committed to bringing those responsible for the killing to justice, and asking those in Mombasa to “exercise restraint and allow the government to get to the bottom of the matter.”

Mr. Odinga said, “We are committed to bringing whoever was responsible to justice. I appeal to our people not to use this sad act to inflict more pain and suffering on our country.”

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