|Police drive past a fire lit by demonstrators in Kisauni, Mombasa, Friday [PHOTOS: KEVIN ODIT & MAARUFU MOHAMED/STANDARD]|
By STANDARD TEAM
MOMBASA, KENYA: Militant supporters of slain Muslim cleric Sheikh Ibrahim Ismail battled police in the neighbourhoods of Majengo and Kisauni for hours, protesting his Thursday killing by unknown gunmen in a drive-by shooting.
Police said four people were killed and dozens injured in the standoff between rioters and security officers, and the situation was expected to escalate with police receiving reinforcements from Kwale County.
A church was burnt, vehicles stoned, and M-Pesa and other shops along Jomo Kenyatta Avenue destroyed as businesses closed early over the chaos that started immediately after the 1pm Friday prayers.
At the same time, authorities said they were seeking to arrest radical Islamist Sheikh Abubakar Shariff, alias Makaburi, who they claim tampered with Sheikh Ibrahim’s murder scene and orchestrated the hurried burial of his body.
“We are looking for him (Makaburi) because he obstructed justice. Police were supposed to perform a postmortem on the bodies but the bodies were hurriedly buried,” said Mombasa County commander Kipkemboi Kitur.
Earlier, Makaburi — who police accused of inciting his militant supporters — was unreachable for most of the day yesterday as his phone was shut down, but The Standard On Saturday managed to reach him late in the evening.
Makaburi disputed that he was the first at the scene, saying he arrived 45 minutes after the police. He was ready to be arrested, he said, adding he was not a coward.
Reports indicate yesterday that police were planning night raids in key areas in Kisauni, Likoni, Changamwe and mosques in Mombasa.
Intelligence sources told The Standard On Saturday that Sheikh Ibrahim — alias Rogo alias Amour — was killed “in order to disrupt a major terrorist attack in Mombasa this weekend.”
In mid July, the National Intelligence Service (NIS) accused Sheikh Ibrahim of activating the so-called Mtopanga cell of al-Shabaab and of inviting four newly trained jihadists from Somalia into Mombasa to plot a bombing campaign in the coastal city and Nairobi to avenge last year’s killing of Sheikh Aboud Rogo.
A church was torched in Majengo as violence spread from Musa Mosque where Sheikh Ibrahim issued incendiary sermons against non-Muslims, the State and Muslim opponents and allegedly recruited Kenyan youth to fight jihad in Somalia.
Last evening, Red Cross branch co-ordinator Mohamed Rajab said the four died from gunshot and shrapnel wounds. One died at the Coast General Hospital after being picked at a market in Kisauni, while a second was pronounced dead at the same hospital.
Two bodies – all male – were discovered in Mtopanga area and local residents were preparing to bury them.
At the height of the violence in Majengo, a man was shot in the stomach by police in Bakarani and Kisauni after militant youths spilled over from streets, mosques into dingy alleys in gory violence that also led to looting and shutdown of roads and shops. He is believed to be the one in hospital.
The nurse-in-charge at the hospital, Cecilia Mugambi, confirmed one death but declined to name the victim who was hit by a bullet on the left side of the chest.
Close to 10 casualties with bullet wounds, including bus conductors, shot in the legs were treated at the hospital while a man was stabbed in the stomach in Majengo by unknown rioters.
Hooded youths lit fires with old tyres shouting Allahu Akbar (God is great) and threatening to avenge Sheikh Ibrahim’s killing.
Tension has been building in Mombasa since last month’s terrorist carnage at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi when false rumours spread that Makaburi and Sheikh Ibrahim had been killed by state agents over the Nairobi violence.
Makaburi himself and the slain preacher inflamed passions more by praising the Westgate attacks and warning of more violence if Kenyan forces are not removed from Somalia where the Kenyan military is fighting Al-Shabaab.
Arriving at the scene on Thursday evening after the 9.45pm killing, Makaburi declared Kenyan authorities had embarked on a “systematic assassination” to avenge the Westgate killings. He railed at Muslims who attended Tuesday’s interdenominational prayers and accused former Prime Minister Raila Odinga of bringing Israel agents to lead the war on terrorism.
“The government has to obey its law or we will have to disobey it because we can’t sit back and be slaughtered or see our sheikhs killed everyday,” said Makaburi.
Meanwhile, Salim Aboud — who survived Thursday’s attack in which Sheikh Ibrahim was killed — said the slain imam and two others were killed in “a shower of bullets” pumped from the right side of their car as they sped towards Mtwapa in Kilifi County.
A shaken Salim, who had bruises on his chin, said he survived the shooting because “Allah did not want my end today”, but reports show he played dead to deter further shooting. “Allah spared me because my time has not come,” he said, and disclosed that gunmen in a car overtook them as they approached Bamburi Beach hotel.