NAIROBI — Gunmen killed a Muslim cleric and three others in a hail of bullets in the Kenyan port city of Mombasa, a year after the imam's predecessor was killed in the same manner and on the same road and nearly the same spot.
The killings triggered street violence by youths on Friday who blamed police for the homicides, and four more people were killed in the mayhem.
The cleric's supporters alleged that the shooting death late Thursday of Sheik Ibrahim Ismael was a reprisal by Kenyan security forces for the Sept. 21 attack on Nairobi's Westgate Mall that killed more than 60 people. A Somali Islamic extremist group, al-Shabab, claimed responsibility for the mall attack.
Ismael's predecessor at the Masjid Musa Mosque, who was gunned down in August 2012, had been accused of aiding al-Shabab, including recruiting youths for the Somali group.
"While it's possible the timing is linked, the pattern of targeted killings and disappearances in Mombasa long predates Westgate. What's clear is that a serious independent investigation of yesterday's killing and earlier attacks on Aboud Rogo and others is urgently needed to answer the many questions about these attacks," Leslie Lefkow, an Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch said.
The dark four-door car that Ismael was riding in was riddled by bullets. People gathered around the car, taking photographs and staring at the bodies as weeping relatives of the dead approached.
Police spokeswoman Gatiria Mboroki denied that police had any involvement in the killings. "We are investigating who did this and what the motive is because we don't know," she said.