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Four killed in Kenyan unrest after imam killing, says Red Cross

The Kenyan Red Cross says four people have been killed during unrest in the port city of Mombasa. The violence came as Muslim protesters took to the streets after an Islamic cleric was shot dead in the city on Thursday.

Friday's protests in Mombasa were sparked by the drive-by killing of a popular Muslim preacher and his three companions on Thursday, which his followers blamed on security forces. No one has so far claimed responsibility for Thursday's attack.

The Kenya Red Cross said the four people killed on Friday all had gunshot wounds sustained during clashes with security forces.

Police in riot gear fired gunshots and tear gas to break up the crowd of protesters, which reportedly consisted mostly of youths. Witnesses said the protesters burnt tires and threw stones at the police, as well as temporarily blocking the main road into the city.

A senior police officer said the rioters had also set fire to a Salvation Army church.

Radical clerics

The slain imam, Sheikh Ibrahim Ismael, preached at a mosque that has in the past been linked with Somali al-Shabab Islamist militants, who two weeks ago killed at least 67 people in a raid on Westgate shopping mall in the capital, Nairobi.

Ibrahim Ismael was viewed as the successor to Aboud Rogo Mohammed, another firebrand cleric who was shot dead in his vehicle in August 2012 in a similar attack. Rogo's death also triggered riots in Mombasa that even turned deadly.

Both Kenya and the United States had accused Rogo of recruiting and fund-raising for al-Shabab. Supporters and colleagues of the two preachers have claimed both killings were "executions" carried out by the police, with some seeing the latest death as a response to the Nairobi raid.

Many Muslims in Mombasa and along Kenya's Indian Ocean coastline feel marginalised by the predominantly Christian government.

Mombasa is Kenya's main port and a popular tourist hub.

tj/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters)