A group of young Muslim men burned a church and clashed with police in Kenya's main port city of Mombasa on Friday, blaming the killing of an Islamic cleric and his followers on security forces. At least four people were killed in the violence.
Rioters set fire to a Salvation Army church in the Majengo district and blocked a main road after Friday prayers, Reuters reported. Police fired gunshots and teargas to disperse the mob.
At least four people were reported to have been killed in the clash. One person died of bullet wounds, and three other died of stab wounds, according to Agence France Presse.
The killing of the cleric, Sheikh Ibrahim Omar, and three other men sparked the riot. Their bodies were found in a car, which had marks of bullets, on Mombasa's outskirts on Thursday night.
Some people from Omar's Masjid Mussa mosque say police killed the cleric and his associates as part of a crackdown on local Muslims after Islamist militants killed at least 68 people in a raid on a Nairobi shopping mall, Westgate, two weeks ago. Police denied the allegation.
It was believed that Omar had links with Somali group al-Shabaab, which has ties with al Qaeda. Another cleric, Aboud Rogo, who was also believed to have links with al Shabaab, was killed in his vehicle last year. According to some moderate Muslim leaders, Omar was a disciple of Rogo and was known as "Rogo junior."
"They (authorities) have panicked because of their own laxity which killed Kenyans at Westgate," Hatib Suleiman, who prays at Omar's mosque, was quoted as saying. "Now they are trying to save face by sacrificing innocent Muslims ... We are not going to take this lightly."
Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for last month's Westgate terror attack on its Twitter feed, saying: "The attack at #WestgateMall is just a very tiny fraction of what Muslims in Somalia experience at the hands of Kenyan invaders… For long we have waged war against the Kenyans in our land, now it's time to shift the battleground and take the war to their land."
Al Shabaab has been reacting to Kenyan troops' presence in Somalia to fight Islamist terrorist groups. The group controls most of southern Somalia.
The terror group splintered from a now defunct group of Sharia courts, the Islamic Courts Union. It is seeking to overthrow the Transitional Federal Government in Somalia, created in 2004 and supported by the African Union, the United Nations and the United States. Since the outbreak of the 1991 civil war, which overthrew President Siad Barre's regime, most parts of Somalia have had no formal government. The transitional government controls only a small part of the country.