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Muslim cleric killed in Kenya

A controversial Muslim cleric with indirect links to al Qaeda has been shot and killed in Kenya. His violent death has sparked protest amongst his supporters.

The radical Kenyan Muslim cleric Aboud Rogo Mohammed, with alleged links to terrorism, was shot dead in the tourist city of Mombasa on Monday, sparking local riots.

Police said that Mohammed had been shot in a car. The identity of his attacker was unknown to the authorities.

"A car behind us aimed at my husband, they shot him on the right side," said his wife Haniya Said after the shooting.

"He died as we rushed him to hospital. Why have they killed my dear husband?"

Witnesses said the car had been riddled with bullets. His supporters released a photograph of Mohammed's dead body behind the wheel of the vehicle shortly afterwards.

The cleric's demise triggered a wave of protests, with thousands of demonstrators gathering in Mombasa, blocking off the area surrounding the mosque where Mohammed preached, and setting vehicles alight. Kenyan police responded by firing teargas to disperse the protesters.

Links to terrorism

Mohammed had been targeted with sanctions by the United States and the United Nations for allegedly supporting Somalia's al Qaeda-linked al Shebab militia. Mohammed was accused of being a key cog in the al Shebab group.

The United Nations said that he had provided "financial, material, logistical or technical support to al Shebab" and was the "main ideological leader" of Kenya's al Hijra group, otherwise known as the Muslim Youth Center (MYC). The group is thought to be closely affiliated to al Shebab.

Mohammed had experienced several brushes with the law for his alleged activities. He was arrested in January, with police seizing firearms, ammunition and detonators. He was later released on bail. Mohammed was also acquitted of the 2002 bombing of a hotel in Mombasa that left 15 people dead.

He had been accused of introducing Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, the now-deceased leader of al Qaeda's east Africa cell, to at least one of the individuals who Fazul Mohammed later teamed up with to carry out the twin US embassy bomb attacks in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam in 1998. Those attacks left 224 people dead.

sej/ccp (Reuters, AFP)