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Kenya riots rage a day after killing of radical cleric

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Rioters clashed with police in Kenya’s port city of Mombasa for a second day Tuesday, after the killing of an extremist cleric linked to al-Qaeda-allied militants, witnesses said.

Hundreds of angry youths throwing stones, damaging cars and chanting slogans in support of slain preacher Aboud Rogo Mohammed moved towards the center of Mombasa, a popular tourist city, an AFP reporter said.

“The riots have started again,” said Khalid Hussein of Muslims for Human Rights, a local organization. Staff in Mombasa’s main hospital reported that at least 14 people had been injured in the clashes.

Somalia’s al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab militants meanwhile called on Kenyan Muslims to “take all necessary measures” to protect their religion.

“Muslims must take the matter into their own hands, stand united against the kuffar (unbelievers) and take all necessary measures to protect their religion, their honor, their property and their lives from the enemies of Islam,” the al-Shabaab said in a statement.

The cleric, who was shot dead on Monday by “unknown people”, according to the police, was on U.S. and U.N. sanctions lists for allegedly supporting the al-Shabaab, including through recruitment and fundraising.

He was driving with his wife and children when gunmen opened fire on his vehicle, leaving it riddled with bullets. Images released by his supporters showed his bloody corpse slumped behind the wheel.

Shortly after his death furious protests erupted, with one person hacked to death, cars torched, business attacked and five churches looted or set on fire.

Despite the eruption of fresh clashes Tuesday, regional police chief Aggrey Adoli said on the protests were under control.

“A group of youth has been throwing stones here and there, but our officers are there to contain the situation,” Adoli said.

The cleric -- popularly known as Rogo -- was the spiritual leader of the Muslim Youth Center (MYC), a group viewed as a close ally of the extremist al-Shabaab.

The Islamist MYC blamed the authorities for the preacher’s murder, but police have dismissed the claim and say they are hunting the killers.

“Our beloved Sheikh Aboud Rogo... was murdered by the kuffar (unbelievers) as part of Kenya’s policy of extra-judicial killings against prominent Muslim activists,” the MYC said Tuesday in a statement.

Rogo was placed on a U.S. sanctions list in July for “engaging in acts that directly or indirectly threaten the peace, security or stability of Somalia”, specifically for recruiting and fundraising for the hardline al-Shabaab.

The United Nations Security Council placed a travel ban and asset freeze on him in July, saying he had provided “financial, material, logistical or technical support to al-Shabaab”.

The MYC condemned the killing as an “act of barbarity”, and warned that they “hold the Kenyan authorities responsible for this targeted assassination.”

Police on Tuesday appealed to the public for information on Rogo’s killing.

“Investigations are going on to get people who committed the murder,” said regional police chief Adoli. “We have not made any arrest so far, but our officers are out looking for them.”

Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga on Monday condemned Rogo’s “horrific” murder, adding the government was “committed to bringing whoever was responsible to justice”.

Rogo had been accused by the U.N. of using the MYC group as “a pathway for radicalization and recruitment of principally Swahili-speaking Africans for carrying out violent militant activity in Somalia.”

He “repeatedly called for the violent rejection of the Somali peace process”, the U.S. Treasury said, noting he had often advocated the use of violence against both the U.N. and the African Union force battling the al-Shabaab in Somalia.

The cleric is also alleged to have introduced Fazul Abdullah Mohammed -- the late head of al-Qaeda’s east Africa cell, shot dead last year in Somalia’s war-torn capital Mogadishu -- to at least one of the men who helped him carry out the twin U.S. embassy bombings in 1998.

The bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam killed 224 people.