Muslim cleric Abubakar Shariff shot dead
01 April 2014, 21:23
Mombasa - A prominent hardline Muslim cleric was shot dead in Mombasa on Tuesday, amid worsening religious tensions in the strategic port city and gateway to East Africa.
Abubaker Shariff Ahmed, better known as Makaburi, was a vocal supporter of Osama bin Laden and defended last year's attack on the Westgate shopping mall claimed by Somalia's Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab rebels as "100 percent justified."
Makaburi was also on UN sanctions lists and accused of being a "leading facilitator and recruiter of young Kenyan Muslims for violent militant activity in Somalia", and for having "strong ties" with senior members of the Shebab.
Senior police officer in Mombasa Richard Ngatia confirmed Makaburi, a vocal supporter of Al-Qaeda, had been killed by "unknown assailants", and an AFP reporter in the city saw his bloody corpse.
Makaburi, dressed in white robes, had been shot in the chest. Another young man was also shot dead alongside Makaburi, in circumstances that were not immediately clear.
Many of the clerics' supporters accuse the Kenyan authorities of being behind a string of killings of radical Islamists in the Mombasa and Muslim-majority coastal region, claims that officials have repeatedly denied.
In an interview with AFP only last month, Makaburi said he was resigned to being killed. "My life is in danger. They will eventually kill me. They do that," he said.
Police fired into the air to push back furious supporters of the cleric, as family members came to identify the body.
The firebrand cleric had praised the suicide commandos who stormed Nairobi's Westgate mall in September, massacring at least 67 in a four-day siege that was carried out in retaliation for Kenya's intervention in Somalia to fight the Shebab.
"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 told AFP.
A prominent leader at the controversial Musa Mosque, Makaburi presented himself as a simple man promoting "true Islam", and said the best examples of Islam are found in parts of Fallujah in Iraq, Taliban-controlled Afghanistan and Shebab-held areas of Somalia.
Previous killings of clerics have sparked deadly riots, with supporters clashing with the police.
In August 2012, radical preacher Aboud Rogo Mohammed was gunned down, and in October last year his successor, Sheikh Ibrahim Ismail, met the same fate on a road near Mombasa, again sparking riots.
The killing of Makaburi comes just over a week after six worshippers were shot dead in a church near Mombasa, prompting a fresh security crackdown by Kenyan security forces and renewed talk among officials of a "shoot to kill" policy to deal with the threat of Islamist violence.