Kenya charges 70 with being members of al Shabaab

MOMBASA, Kenya Wed Feb 12, 2014 8:46am EST

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MOMBASA, Kenya (Reuters) - A Kenyan court on Wednesday charged 70 people with being members of Somali militant group al Shabaab, after they were arrested during a police raid on a mosque that sparked days of rioting in Mombasa.

The 70 denied being members of the Islamist group, which is linked to al Qaeda, and others relating to terrorism, possession of arms, robbery and incitement to violence in a crowded courtroom 10 km (six miles) outside the port city.

They were arrested when armed policemen swooped on the Masjid Mussa mosque in Mombasa on February 2, saying they had information that Muslim youths were being recruited there for militant attacks.

Police said three people were killed in the raid, and recovered an AK 47 rifle, ammunition, swords, knives, video discs and flags which they said bore the symbols of al Shabaab.

They arrested 129 suspects, but released 21 after a court declared them minors, and a further 33 against whom the court found no evidence.

Police said four others had been hospitalized with injuries sustained in the raid, and that one detainee was still being held for interrogation and could be charged with the murder of a police officer during the raid.

The 70 accused were ordered held in custody until February 26 when a ruling on their applications for bail will be issued.

The government has vowed to break up militant networks in a bid to end attacks mounted in retaliation against Kenya for sending troops to Somalia to fight al Shabaab. Gunmen belonging to the group killed at least 67 people in a Nairobi shopping mall in September.

The government has said it will not allow places of worship to be used to radicalize young people.

(Editing by James Macharia and Andrew Roche)

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