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Violence flares for third day straight in Mombasa

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

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Renewed violence broke out late Wednesday in Kenya's port city of Mombasa as a grenade was hurled at police, with one person reported killed in the third day of unrest sparked by the assassination of a radical cleric.

While a heavy police presence on Wednesday had reportedly quashed the stone-throwing rioters who had taken to the streets in their hundreds following the killing of preacher Aboud Rogo Mohammed on Monday, a grenade was later hurled at a police truck wounding four.

One person was reported killed after the explosive was thrown, with two critically injured taken to hospital, the Red Cross said.

Initial reports suggested the person had been killed by the blast, but others said the fatality may have been one of the attackers.

"One person has been killed at the scene where the grenade occurred," a senior police officer said, adding that four officers were injured by the blast. "We believe he was one the attackers."

The cleric -- popularly known as Rogo -- was on US and UN sanctions lists for allegedly supporting neighbouring Somalia's Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab militants.

Rogo had fiercely opposed Kenya's invasion of southern Somalia last year to attack Shebab bases. The US and UN had accused him of recruiting and fundraising for the extremist insurgents.

Wednesday's attack, which brings the number killed in the violence to five, came hours after Prime Minister Raila Odinga called for the nation to come together to stop religious violence.

"We are not going to allow outside forces to incite Kenyans to create religious war," Odinga said after flying to Mombasa, a key port for the wider east Africa region and a major tourist hub.

"We have many political enemies but we want to see coexistence among all the communities living in Mombasa," Odinga said, after meeting with religious leaders from the majority-Muslim region, which also has a significant Christian population.

For two days, angry youths fought running battles with police, looting churches and torching cars. Rioters also attacked a police truck with a grenade on Tuesday, killing three officers and wounding over a dozen.

Despite the grenade attack, Mombasa appeared far calmer on Wednesday, according to AFP reporter. Regional police chief Aggrey Adoli had earlier insisted an "adequate deployment" of officers had quelled the rioters.

At least 24 people were charged with offenses linked to the riots on Wednesday, with more suspects likely to be charged in coming days, Adoli said.

An AFP reporter said police conducted house-to-house searches looking for suspects, as well as for guns and other weapons.

Foreign embassies -- including those of Australia, Britain, France and the United States -- have issued travel warnings for Mombasa, where several large tourist resorts are based.

Rogo was killed Monday in Mombasa when unidentified gunmen opened fire on his vehicle as he was driving with his wife and children, leaving it riddled with bullets.

Images released by his supporters showed his bloody corpse slumped behind the wheel. His wife and children reportedly survived the attack.

Human Rights Watch has called for a probe into the killing, noting it "follows the abductions and deaths earlier this year of several other people charged with recruitment and other offences related to the Shebab."

Rogo's supporters accused the security forces of murdering him, calling his death an "extra-judicial killing". The police reject the claim and have appealed for help in hunting down those responsible.

The Supreme Council of Muslims in Kenya condemned both the killing of Rogo and the subsequent violence, especially the targeting of churches.

However, Somalia's hardline Shebab called on Kenyan Muslims to "take all necessary measures" to defend their religion.

"Muslims must take the matter into their own hands, stand united against the kuffar (non-Muslims) and take all necessary measures to protect their religion, their honour, their property and their lives from the enemies of Islam," the group said in a statement on Tuesday.

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