Four people have died and at least seven have been hopitalized in riots that erupted in the Kenyan port city of Mombasa after gunmen shot and killed a popular Muslim cleric and three of his associates.
Rioters burned tires and set fire to a church in unrest that erupted in the wake of Friday afternoon prayers one day after unidentified attackers opened fire on Sheikh Ibrahim Amor and the three other men as they traveled home after delivering sermons at Musa Mosque.
Witnesses say police fired tear gas on Friday and engaged in running battles with Muslim youth in the coastal city's impoverished Majengo neighborhood.
Sheikh Amor was viewed as a successor to Aboud Rogo Mohammed, who preached at the same mosque and was accused by U.S. and U.N. officials of having links to the Somali militant group al-Shabab.
Rights activists accuse Kenyan security forces of targeting and killing alleged Islamist radicals and terrorist suspects, and riots erupted after Rogo was fatally shot in 2012 on the same road where Amor was killed.
Security officials have accused Sheikh Amor of radicalizing young people into terrorism, but police deny killing him, and Mombasa police commander, Robert Kitur, called the situation calm.
“They tried to burn some tires but the situation is calm on the ground," he said. "They attempted to burn one of the churches, the Salvation Army, but we have put out the fire.”
Local witnesses say police have been deployed to guard churches in areas hit by rioting.
Speaking to reporters outside Jamia Mosque in Nairobi after Friday prayers, Al Amin Kimathi, head of the Muslim Human Rights Forum, condemned the killing of the four men and accused Kenyan security forces of being behind the attack.
“We say this is savage attack, barbaric to the extreme and patently against all laws of this land and in total violation of all norms and human rights," he said. "We say this is a continuation of the extra-judicial killings that have occurred over the last two years.”
Kenya police say they have not made any arrests in connection with the killing of Sheikh Amor or his associates, but that the investigation is ongoing.
Tensions have been high in Kenya since al-Shabab militants stormed a Nairobi mall in a violent attack and subsequent siege that left 72 people dead, including five of the gunmen.