By BosNewsLife Africa Service with reporting by BosNewsLife’s Special Correspondent Paul Jongas in the region
NAIROBI, KENYA (BosNewsLife)– Christians in Kenya’s troubled port city of Mombasa were on edge Saturday, October 5, after Muslim mobs torched a Salvation Army church in riots that killed four people and injured at least seven others.
Friday’s attack against the Salvation Army, an international Christian charity, came shortly after gunmen shot and killed Sheikh Ibrahim Amor, a popular Muslim cleric, and three of his associates while they traveled home after delivering sermons at Musa Mosque, officials said.
Firemen rushed to the church to extinguish the blaze, but damage appeared extensive. There were no reports of casualties among Salvation Army staff.
Besides attacking the church, mobs were also seen burning tires while police fired tear gas against rioting Muslim youth in the coastal city’s impoverished Majengo neighborhood.
Reports said Sheikh Amor was viewed as a successor to Aboud Rogo Mohammed, who preached at the same mosque and was accused by the United States and United Nations 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, the Voice of America (VOA) network reported.
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 said police have been deployed to guard churches in areas hit by rioting.
“We will not tolerate unruly youth taking over the town,” Mombasa police chief Kipkemoi Rop said, adding that 24 had been detained.
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 Islamic gunmen, as well as Christians.
On Saturday, October 5, Kenya’s military spokesman named four people implicated in the attack.
Major Emmanuel Chirchir identified them as as Abu Baara al-Sudani, Omar Nabhan, Khattab al-Kene and Umayr.
Al-Sudani, from Sudan, was the leader of the group inside the mall and had been trained by terror group al Qaida, said Chirchir. He told media that he is “an experienced fighter and sharpshooter”.
Nabhan, a Kenyan of Arab origin, was born in Mombasa and traveled to Somalia with his uncle at the age of 16, said the spokesman.
The third attacker, Al-Kene, is said to be Somali from the capital Mogadishu, and is linked to al-Shabab Islamist militants, Chirchir said.
The other names of the fourth attacker, Umayr, as well as his nationality and history were “not yet identified”, he said.
Sky News television quoted Matt Bryden, former head of the United Nations Monitoring Group on Somalia, as saying that Al-Kene and Umayr are known members of al Hijra, a Kenyan extremist group affiliated with al-Shabab.
Kenya’s government initially said 10 to 15 attackers were involved in the assault, but police now believe between four and six people took part in the protracted siege of Westgate shopping mall.
Details about the fighters came while new footage emerged Saturday, October 5, showing gunmen roaming through the mall, where several were killed because they could not say the name of Prophet Muhammed’s mother, al-Shabab said.
However the Somalia-based group is under pressure with militants saying that Western forces raided one of its bases in the early hours of Saturday, October 5, and attacked a house.
Forces landed on the beach at Barawe -176 kilometers (110 miles) south of the capital Mogadishu, where a gunfight ensued, a spokesman for al-Shabab’s military operations, said.
In Washington, Pentagon spokesman George Little declined to comment on whether American forces were involved in the alleged raid on the militants.
(BosNewsLife, the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians, is ‘Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals’ since 2004).
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