Rioters torched a church amid gunfire and tear gas Friday (October 4th), as police in Kenya's port city of Mombasa tried to quash protests sparked by the killing of a Muslim cleric. Slain cleric Sheikh Ibrahim Ismail was viewed as the successor to Aboud Rogo Mohammed, a controversial preacher accused of links to al-Shabaab, who was shot dead in August 2012.
The riots broke out after unknown gunmen assassinated Ismail and his three companions in a drive-by shooting late Thursday. 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."
A Salvation Army church was torched by rioters, but firemen later brought the blaze under control. Thick smoke 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 heard.
One man was reported dead and at least four people were wounded. The Red Cross said four casualties -- two with gunshot wounds and two with cuts -- were taken to hospital. Kenya's national crisis centre confirmed one man was killed. Hospital officials said the man killed had been shot. Sporadic clashes and looting broke out in several districts of the city, but the police insisted they were in control.
"We will not tolerate unruly youth taking over the town," Mombasa police chief Kipkemoi Rop said, adding that 24 had been arrested. "We have deployed enough officers to get the streets back to normal," Rop said. Abubaker Shariff Ahmed -- known more commonly by his nickname Makaburi -- accused the police of the "outright execution" of Ismail and his comrades.
"The police are killing people while saying it is a war against terrorism, this is a war against Islam," said Makaburi, a former close colleague of Rogo. Both Makaburi and Rogo were on US and UN sanctions lists for allegedly supporting al-Shabaab, including through recruitment and fundraising.