Kenyan police quell unrest after Islamist shooting: witness

MOMBASA, Kenya Fri Apr 4, 2014 9:19am EDT

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MOMBASA, Kenya (Reuters) - Kenyan police fired in the air and unleashed tear gas to disperse scores of Muslim youths angered by the killing of a prominent Islamist in the port city of Mombasa this week, a Reuters witness said on Friday.

Tensions have been simmering in the tourist hub since Tuesday when unknown attackers shot dead Abubakar Shariff, more commonly known as Makaburi, who was accused by the United States and U.N. Security Council of supporting Somali militants.

About 100 youths streamed out of the Masjid Shuhadaa mosque in Mombasa's rundown Majengo area, throwing stones and charging a group of journalists outside the house of worship. They scattered when police fired in the air.

Another group of Muslim youths tried to loot a local business but dispersed under tear gas fire from police.

Kenya, which has east Africa's largest economy, has been on edge since an assault by Somali al Shabaab rebels on a Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi in September in which at least 67 people were killed.

Makaburi's close associate Aboud Rogo, a cleric who preached at Masjid Shuhadaa mosque, was killed in a drive-by shooting in 2012, while radical cleric Sheikh Ibrahim Omar was killed in a similar way last year. Both incidents sparked riots.

"As you all know, we are faced with a resurgent extremist movement," President Uhuru Kenyatta said at a function at a church, adding the nation would not be divided by "terrorists".

At a separate police ceremony, he said: "For those carrying illegal weapons, we give them two weeks to surrender their arms and they will get amnesty, failure to which they will face the full force of the law."

Many Kenyans criticize the government for what they say is worsening security and an inadequate response to Westgate.

Earlier on Friday two human rights groups said they had postponed protests over the drive-by shooting of Makaburi, who security sources say had become a leading member of al-Hijra, a Kenyan affiliate of al Shabaab.

Makaburi's supporters have accused state security agents of killing him, a charge they strongly deny.

(Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Edmund Blair and Mark Heinrich)

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