January 16, 2010 / 12:38 PM / 10 years ago

Kenya to deport Muslim cleric without delay

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya will deport jailed Jamaican Muslim cleric Sheikh Abdullah al-Faisal “without delay” after a protest against his detention triggered battles with police in the capital Nairobi, a minister said on Saturday.

Kenyan security forces used live rounds, tear gas and dogs to quell the demonstration on Friday near a downtown mosque used by many Somalis who have fled years of violence at home.

Internal Security Minister George Saitoti appealed for calm. He blamed “violent foreign elements from a neighboring country” for the mayhem and assured Muslims in Kenya they would not be targeted and their civil liberties respected.

The violence in Nairobi has stoked fears of a crackdown on the large Somali community in Kenya, or strikes by insurgent sympathizers in east Africa’s biggest economy — the target of successful al Qaeda-linked attacks in 2002 and 1998.

Some protesters carried the black flag of hardline Somali rebels al Shabaab, a group Washington accuses of links to al Qaeda that is trying to overthrow Somalia’s Western-backed government and impose its own harsh version of sharia law.

“This is an indication that some of our youth have been exposed to these ideas by foreign elements bent on ensuring that peace and security obtaining in our country is compromised,” Saitoti told a news conference.

Some residents in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu welcomed the appearance of al Shabaab’s flag on Nairobi’s streets, hoping it might inspire Kenya to help crackdown on the rebels.

“It will redouble the war on terror and al Qaeda,” local elder Hassan Hussein told Reuters.

“FOREIGN CRIMINALS”

Faisal was deported from Britain in 2007 for preaching racial hatred and urging his audiences to kill Jews, Hindus and Westerners. He was visiting Kenya for a preaching tour when he was taken into custody on December 31.

“Kenya will not be used as a playground by foreign criminals. We will chase them away,” Saitoti said. “It is a matter of great insult that a foreigner...be the source of terrible misunderstandings among Kenyans.”

“It has therefore been agreed and recommended that al-Faisal be deported without delay,” the minister said.

Attempts by Kenya to deport Faisal failed last week because Nigeria refused to give him a transit visa to Gambia. He is being held at Nairobi’s international airport until the authorities can send him back to Jamaica.

At least one person was killed in Friday’s clashes. A funeral service for Ahmed Hassan Abdullahi was held in a Nairobi mosque on Saturday and the dead protester was buried afterwards in a peaceful ceremony attended by some 500 people.

Saitoti said five civilians and six police officers were injured in the riots. He said one security officer was hit by a bullet thought to have been fired by a demonstrator.

Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga urged the Muslim community on Saturday to remain calm and said the Kenyan security forces must stop using live ammunition to quell riots, his office said in a statement.

Additional reporting by Abdi Sheikh in Mogadishu; writing by David Clarke; editing by Daniel Wallis and Angus MacSwan

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