MOMBASA, Kenya (AP) — Rioting in Kenya’s second-largest city over the killing of a radical Islamic cleric extended into a second day Tuesday as police fought running battles with youths and one man died when a grenade was hurled into a truck carrying security forces.
Several people were seriously injured in Tuesday’s clashes in Mombasa, police and human rights officials said.
The rioting was in response to the killing Monday of Aboud Rogo Mohammed, a man linked to a terrorist group by Washington who was shot to death as he drove in his car with his family. Human rights groups say the killing fits a pattern of extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances of suspected terrorists that are allegedly being orchestrated by Kenyan police. But police Commissioner Mathew Iteere said that no police officers were involved in Mohammed’ death.
It has brought to the surface tensions in this port city established centuries ago by Muslim traders from the Arabian peninsula, now home to hundreds of thousands of people of Arab descent and a large Somali population.
A prison guard was killed when a hand grenade was hurled into a truck carrying security forces sent to quell the riots, said regional police chief Aggrey Adoli. At least 13 police and security officials were seriously wounded, he said.
Adoli said police were forced to keep violent protests from spreading after they led on Monday to the death of one person and the vandalism of two Christian churches and businesses.
“We are trying to contain them so that we don’t create more deaths. Deaths and destruction of property will not help with anything,” Adoli said.
Hussein Khalid of the Muslim for Human Rights group said police were using tear gas against stone-throwing protesters. Khalid said one person was stabbed and hospitalized on Tuesday. Police have asked Muslim elders and religious leaders to urge the young protesters to stop the violence, Adoli said.
The violence prompted Australia to issue an advisory asking its citizens in Mombasa to avoid public gatherings and monitor the media, saying the civil unrest is likely to continue: “We continue to advise Australians to exercise a high degree of caution in Kenya overall at this time due to the high risk of terrorist attack, civil unrest and high crime levels in the country.”
Keriako Tobiko, Kenya’s Director of Public Prosecutions, has formed a team to investigate the murder of Mohammed made up of members of the police, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, the Lawyers Society of Kenya and the Independent Policing Oversight Authority.
The team is expected to “conduct, comprehensive, independent and expeditious investigation into the murder with a view of apprehending and bringing to justice the perpetrators of the crime,” said Keriako. It is expected to finish its work in 14 days.
Mohammed was recently sanctioned by the U.S. government and the U.N. for his alleged connection to an al Qaeda-linked Somali militant group, al-Shabab. He is the fifth alleged Muslim extremist who has been killed or who disappeared in the last four months, according to human rights campaigners. One corpse was found mutilated and the other four men vanished
Mohammed was shot dead as he drove with his family in Mombasa. His wife was wounded in the leg, said Mohammed’s father, who was also in the car along with Mohammed’s 5-year-old daughter. He said he and the girl weren’t injured.
Police charge that Mohammed had ties to al Qaeda and was part of a terror cell with links to al-Shabab militants that was planning to carry out bomb attacks in Kenya during Christmas. Other members of cell allegedly include Briton Samantha Lewthwaite, who police say is on the run. She is the widow of Jermaine Lindsay, one of the suicide bombers who killed 52 commuters in multiple bombings of London’s transport system on July 7, 2005.
Another reported cell member is Briton Jermaine Grant, sentenced to three years in prison for immigration offenses and lying to a government official about his identity. Grant is also charged with conspiring to commit a felony and possessing explosive materials
In January, Mohammed was charged with possession of a cache of guns, ammunition and detonators. He also faced charges of membership in al-Shabab
Al-Shabab has vowed to carry out a large-scale attack in Nairobi in retaliation for Kenya sending troops into neighboring Somalia to fight al-Shabab. The Kenyan government blames al-Shabab for several kidnappings on Kenyan soil, including those of four Europeans. The kidnappings greatly harmed the Kenya’s coastal tourism industry.
Mohammed was acquitted in 2005 of murder charges for the 2002 bombing of an Israeli-owned tourist hotel near Mombasa which killed more than 12 people. In conjunction with that attack, two surface-to-air missiles were fired at an Israeli-owned airliner packed with Israeli tourists as it took off from Mombasa. The missiles narrowly missed.
Prosecutors at the trial said Mohammed had been in contact with Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, al Qaeda’s East Africa head, who the U.S. said masterminded the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania which killed 231 people, including 12 Americans. A Somali soldier shot the al Qaeda leader dead at a checkpoint in Mogadishu, Somalia, last year.
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