Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Assassination of Cleric 'Makaburi' Puts Kenya on Edge

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Assassination of Cleric 'Makaburi' Puts Kenya on Edge

Article excerpt

Kenya's most prominent radical Muslim was gunned down Tuesday night near the coastal city of Mombasa amid escalating violence between government security forces and Muslim youths - raising fears of retaliation and further tension.

Abubaker Shariff Ahmed, an avowed jihadist known popularly as Makaburi, which means graveyard in Swahili, was shot dead at 6:30 p.m. outside a prison where he reported for a scheduled court appearance. Mr. Ahmed is the sixth and highest-profile Muslim cleric to be killed in suspicious circumstances on Kenya's coast in the past few years. He was under sanctions from the UN Security Council that included a travel ban and an asset freeze for allegedly supporting terrorism.

The killing of Ahmed comes as the government has moved to curb or even preempt terrorism through round-ups and crackdowns. It adds to what seems a circular or "tit-for-tat" reaction in recent weeks between security forces and Muslims and ethnic Somalis.

In the past 48 hours, police have carried out blanket sweeps through the streets of Nairobi and Mombasa, and arrested nearly 1,000 people after door-to-door searches -- and are questioning many of those apprehended about their links to terror groups like Al Shabab, which operates out of Somalia, where Kenya has a significant troop deployment.

That sweep in turn followed blasts of homemade bombs in Nairobi's "Little Mogadishu" neighborhood that killed six people. Those blasts followed an order by the interior minister for all refugees in urban areas to return to their camps, a controversial policy whose purpose appears to be a curb on radicalism -- and a week after a deadly attack on a church in the port of Mombasa.

Ahmed was popular among young radicals and became of a voluble media figure -- well known in Kenya for frequently giving fiery interviews to local and international journalists. …

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