Wednesday, November 5, 2014 9:30 am
Gunmen in the Kenyan port city of Mombasa have shot dead a moderate Muslim cleric, a vocal opponent of the radical preachings of Somalia’s Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab insurgents, police said Wednesday.
The shooting in Kenya’s second city is the latest in a series of killings of preachers, amid power struggles between rival Muslim factions.
Salim Bakari Mwarangi was shot late Tuesday by gunmen riding a motorbike as he left after prayers at the Bilal mosque in Mombasa, a key port as well as important tourist hub for the country’s Indian Ocean coastline.
“Gunmen on a motorbike slowed down, shot at him and sped off,” Mombasa police chief Robert Kitur said. “Police have launched an investigation and manhunt for the attackers.”
Kassim Bakari, a relative of Mwarangi, said the slain cleric had received death threats and feared for his life.
“People were calling him saying they are looking for him to kill him,” Bakari said. “But he was a preacher who liked peace and always preached peace.”
Several Western nations have warned their nationals to avoid all but essential travel to Mombasa, hit by bombings and shootings since Kenya invaded Somalia in 2011 to attack the Shebab, later joining an African Union force battling the Islamists.
In June, gunmen on a motorbike killed an influential moderate cleric, Mohamed Idris, also an opponent of the Shebab.
That murder followed the assassination in April of prominent hardline cleric Abubaker Shariff Ahmed, better known as Makaburi, who was a vocal supporter of Osama bin Laden.
In August 2012, radical preacher Aboud Rogo Mohammed was also gunned down, sparking deadly riots. His successor, Sheikh Ibrahim Ismail, met the same fate on a road near Mombasa in October 2013.
Supporters of the dead clerics accused the security forces of carrying out those killings, claims officials denied outright.
Churches have also been attacked.