Kenyan Muslim Cleric Shot Dead, Unrest Feared

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Gunmen in the Kenyan port city of Mombasa shot dead a popular Muslim cleric who preached at a mosque linked in the past to Somali Islamist militants, police said on Friday, Reuters reports.

Ibrahim Omar and three other people were shot as they drove home on Thursday night after preaching, the BBC says. The apparent assassination comes amid rising tensions between the Muslim community and the security forces, heightened by the recent killing of more than 60 people in an attack on a Nairobi shopping mall claimed by Somalia’s al-Qaeda-linked militant group al-Shabab.

The shooting took place late on Thursday night just a few hundred meters from where another firebrand cleric, Aboud Rogo, was shot dead in his vehicle in August 2012 in a strikingly similar attack, says Reuters. The killing of Rogo, who was also linked to al Shabab by both the Kenyan government and the U.S., unleashed deadly riots in Mombasa’s run-down neighborhoods where he commanded a loyal support base, Reuters adds.

The police in Mombasa have denied allegations that the clerics are victims of extra-judicial killings by Kenyan security forces. “The police have nothing to do with the shooting. That’s not how we operate,” said the Mombasa County Police Commander, Robert Kitur, according to Reuters.

There are fears of unrest in Mombasa after Friday prayers. On Friday morning, anti-riot police patrolled Mombasa’s Majengo neighborhood, home to a mosque where Omar gave sermons, and many businesses remained shut, reports Reuters.