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Murdered Muslim cleric an avowed Al-Qaeda sympathiser

02 April 2014, 08:04

Mombasa - Radical Muslim cleric Abubakar Shariff Ahmed, better known as Makaburi, predicted his own violent death barely a month before being gunned down on the streets of Mombasa.

A firebrand preacher who was outspoken in his admiration for the late Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, Afghanistan's Taliban and Somalia's Al Shabaab rebels, Makaburi had come to be seen by authorities as a key instigator of home-grown Islamist terrorism.

Makaburi, who was in his 50s, was also subject to UN sanctions -- a travel ban, asset freeze and targeted arms embargo -- for being a "leading facilitator and recruiter of young Kenyan Muslims for violent militant activity in Somalia", and for having "strong ties with senior Al-Shabaab members".

The cleric was gunned down on Wednesday evening in Mombasa, the third prominent Kenyan radical Islamist to be shot dead in such circumstances in as many years.

In August 2012, the Mombasa Musa mosque's radical preacher, Aboud Rogo Mohammed, was shot dead, and in October last year his successor, Sheikh Ibrahim Ismail, met the same fate on a road near Mombasa. The killings remain unsolved.

Many believe the Kenyan authorities were behind the killings, and suspicion is again likely to be directed at counter-terrorism operatives who are widely believed to be operating a shoot-to-kill, targeted assassination policy to deal with the threat of radical Islam in the Muslim-majority coastal region.

"My life is in danger. They will eventually kill me. They do that," Makaburi told AFP in an interview last month in his austere Mombasa office, in which he voiced his support for Al-Qaeda but denied being a recruiter.

"I do not support Al-Shabaab, I do not know Al-Shabaab. I support the implementation of sharia law anywhere in the world," Makaburi said. "These are just accusations. Where is the proof that I have recruited anybody? Who have I recruited? When, how, where? These are just accusations."

Instead, he presented himself as a defender of "true Islam" and disaffected Muslim youth -- many of whom may turn to rioting in the wake of the latest killing.

"The highest motivator for the youth to go into Somalia to fight jihad is the Kenyan government doing injustice to the Muslim youth here in Kenya. How do you think the youth feel after they were sitting peacefully in a mosque and they were invaded, shot at, killed, meant to disappear?"

'Westgate 100-percent justified'

His overt support for last year's Westgate shopping mall attack, which was claimed by Al Shabaab, was also likely to have raised his controversial profile.

"It's our innocents for your innocents. It was justified. As per the Koran, as per the religion of Islam, Westgate was 100-percent justified," Makaburi said of the attack that left at least 67 dead, among them women and children cut down by machine-gun fire or grenades.

"Are the ones being killed and raped in Somalia not innocent?" Makaburi said, seizing on Al Shabaab's justification for the mall attack -- Kenya's military presence in southern Somalia.

"The KDF (Kenyan army) is doing the same thing and worse in Somalia than what happened at Westgate. So as per the Islamic religion, they had every right to avenge whatever the KDF is doing in Somalia."

The real "terrorists", Makaburi had argued, were the military personnel operating drones.

"How come the pilots of the drones are not labelled as terrorists? How come when we Muslims are being killed by the Americans using drones, by the British, by whoever, by the West, it's nothing, but when you have a single non-Muslim killed by a Muslim, it's terrorism?"



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