Police and security forces patrolled the streets of Mombasa Saturday, a day after Kenya’s port city was rocked by deadly riots sparked by the assassination of a Muslim cleric.
After furious street battles on Friday in which four protestors died—three from stab wounds and one shot—and a church was torched, the city was largely quiet overnight and remained so Saturday, police said.
“I have just been around to monitor the situation. . . and can report that calm has returned everywhere,” said regional police chief Robert Kitur.
On Friday, protesters hurled stones and armed paramilitary police fired tear gas near a mosque, some of whose leaders have been accused of links to Somalia’s Islamist Shebab, insurgents who massacred 67 people in Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall last month.
Protests began on Friday after midday Muslim prayers, with people angry over the killing by unknown gunmen of a popular preacher and his three companions in a drive-by shooting on Thursday night.
The assassination mirrored the murder of another extremist cleric last year that provoked days of deadly riots.
Slain cleric Sheikh Ibrahim Ismail was viewed as the successor to Aboud Rogo Mohammed, a controversial preacher on US and UN sanctions lists for allegedly supporting the Shebab, who was shot dead in August 2012.
Mombasa is Kenya’s main port and a major tourist hub, popular with visitors coming to enjoy the white sand beaches on the Indian Ocean coastline.
Police in riot gear were out in force on Saturday in flashpoint areas that saw some of the heaviest fighting on Friday, but otherwise traffic and businesses had returned to normal.
Like in the case of Rogo, radical preachers have said the killing of Ismail was an “execution” by the police, which denied the claim.
“We are not involved in anyway with the killings,” Kitur said. “Anyone with evidence of police involvement in that killing should come and see me in person.”
The killing of Ismail follows attacks last month by the Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab, who launched a deadly assault on an upmarket Nairobi shopping mall in a four-day bloodbath.
The Islamists have since threatened “rivers of blood” would flow in fresh attacks if Kenya does not pull its troops out of Somalia.
Meanwhile foreign Special Forces staged a nighttime sea and air attack on a key Shebab base in southern Somalia, the insurgents said Saturday, claiming the assault had failed.
Islamist commanders in the port of Barawe said commandos—presumed to be from a Western nation—rappelled from a helicopter as they tried to storm a house belonging to a senior Shebab leader, as others stormed the beach by boat.
“Our mujahedeen fighters inside the house fought back and the cowards ran away,” Mohamed Abu Suleiman told Agence France-Presse, the Shebab commander in the small seaside town. AFP