Kenya police officer shot in possible Islamist revenge attack

A senior officer with Kenya's counter-terrorism police unit was shot dead by gunmen on Thursday in the port city of Mombasa, in what police said could be revenge for a crackdown on attempts by the Somali al Shabaab militant group to recruit young men.

Kenya is contributing troops to an African Union force in neighbouring Somalia to push back the militants responsible for a string of attacks, including the killing of 67 people in the 2013 siege on Nairobi's Westgate mall.

Robert Kitur, regional police chief for the Kenyan coast, said the officer, named as Ibrahim Mohammed, lived in the neighbourhood where he was killed and may have been seen as marking out local youth for arrest by police.

"We have carried out crackdowns in Old Town and arrested several youths we believe are linked to extremism, so this killing may be a revenge tactic," Kitur told Reuters.

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Al Shabaab activity in Somalia and Kenya has raised fears on a regional and international level. Washington announced last week it had killed Adnan Garaar, believed to be mastermind of the shopping mall attack, in a drone strike.

Police and witnesses said hooded gunmen had approached the officer in Mombasa at around midnight in the Old Town area. They shot him three times in the chest, killing him instantly, before escaping with his rifle, police and witnesses said.

On Thursday morning, local residents said they feared a major police operation over the killing.

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"There will be no peace today because we know police will be carrying out a big search for the criminals involved," said Hamadi Issa, a curio seller in Old Town, near the scene of the murder. "Almost all young men in this area have disappeared. They know there will be trouble today because of this murder."

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