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Africa

Muslims in shock after death of radical cleric

The killing of a Muslim cleric, which sparked riots in the Kenyan port of Mombasa, has sent shock waves through the Muslim community in East Africa.

Controversial Muslim cleric Aboud Rogo Mohammed was shot in a drive-by shooting by unknown assailants while travelling together with his family.

Witnesses said he was specifically targeted by the gunmen when they riddled his car with bullets. He died while on his way to hospital. His death triggered a wave of protests, with angry youths wreaking havoc and chanting slogans in support of the slain preacher.

A policeman guards the van in which Aboud Rogo Mohammed was shot and killed REUTERS/Joseph Okanga

Aboud Rogo was killed while travelling with his family in Mombasa

Police and protesters fought running battles as the violent backlash to the killing continued on Tuesday leaving several people hospitalized, police and human rights officials said.

Media outlets from the region have covered the shooting extensively, quoting some senior clerics as saying  the assassination of the radical preacher was the work of the Kenyan government after the international community raised concerns about his activities.

Links to al-Shabab

Although circumstances of his death still remain unclear, the United Nations was deeply concerned about his activities prior to his death, saying that he had provided "financial, material, logistical or technical support to al-Shabab."

**FILE** In a Tuesday Somali militia of Al-Shabab are seen during exercises at their military training camp outside Mogadishu. (AP Photo, File)

The UN claimed the radical cleric had connections with al-Shabab militants in Somalia

The UN also said he 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-Shabab.

The UN also maintained he used the MYC group as "a pathway for radicalization and recruitment of principally Swahili-speaking Africans for carrying out violent militant activity in Somalia."

The cleric had earlier been blacklisted by the US government over alleged support for al-Shabab by fundraising for their activities, facilitating travel of youths from and into Somalia, and equipping them with skills on how to avoid detection by the Kenyan police.

Similar killings in Uganda

Meanwhile in neighboring Uganda the Muslim community is equally concerned about the death of Aboud Rogo and has urged the Kenyan government to protect the lives of innocent civilians regardless of their faith.

“As a community we urge the Kenyan government to investigate and come up with a valid report, rather than base on rumors,” Imam Kasozi, a Muslim cleric and lecturer at the Islamic University in Uganda, told DW's Africalink in a telephone interview.

“Our religion tells us to live as brothers therefore we must be concerned by the killing of Muslims anywhere in the world,” he added.

Muslims in Uganda have a similar story to tell of clerics being killed. In the past six months alone half a dozen Muslim clerics have been killed in similar circumstances.

People carry the body of Aboud Rogo, a Muslim cleric who was facing terror-related charges, from the scene where he was shot dead (Foto:AP/dapd)

The cleric's death was followed by running battles between protestors and police

Muslim leaders in Uganda have accused the government of failing to investigate the assassinations and come up with a comprehensive report on the wave of killings in the country.

The government has repeatedly denied involvement in the killings of the Muslim clerics, pointing a finger at rogue elements in society which it claims are behind the spate of killings.

Sympathy to rebel movements

Government agents in Uganda and Kenya believe that senior Muslim clerics are connected to rebel movements whose goal is to overthrow legitimate governments and impose their own authority designed along religious lines.

Some of the assassinated clerics in Uganda are suspected of having had links with the Allied Democratic Front (ADF), a rebel a group opposed to the Ugandan government. The ADF is based in western Uganda with rear bases in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Its leader Jamil Mukulu is also on the wanted list worldwide and has been blacklisted by the United States.

However Imam Kasozi denies any connection between Islam and rebel movements in the region. He thinks the allegations are aimed at tarnishing the image of Islam.

“It's not fair to say that Muslims are connected to rebel activities in the region,” he says.

Mombasa was established centuries ago by Muslim traders from the Arabian peninsula and the Indian subcontinent. It is now home to hundreds of thousands of people of Arab descent and a large Somali population.

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