Court says Abubaker Sharif Ahmed urged burning of churches and incited protests that left four dead.
A Kenyan cleric who the UN has accused of urging the killing of US citizens has been charged in court with inciting violent protests that left four people dead last week in Kenya’s second-largest city.
Abubaker Sharif Ahmed appeared before the court on Monday in the port city of Mombasa after an arrest warrant was issued. He denied the charges.
Sharif is also accused of supporting al-Qaeda-linked militants.
Violent protests erupted in Mombasa last week following the assassination of Sheikh Aboud Rogo Mohammed, a close friend of Ahmed’s.
Abubaker Sharif allegedly urged protesters to burn down churches and kill police officers in Kenya’s second-largest city during riots that killed five people, including three police.
The violence followed the assassination of another Muslim cleric, Aboud Rogo, also accused by the United States of supporting al-Shabab – the armed group that Kenya’s military have been battling since invading Somalia last year.
Sharif turned himself in at a court in Mombasa on Monday after an arrest warrant was issued against him last week.
He said his life was in danger in the wake of the rioting.
“He, without lawful excuse uttered words that all sheikhs associated with the government, and who are government agents (should) be slaughtered,” the chargesheet read.
The cleric, who was accompanied by his lawyer and a group of activists, pleaded not guilty to the charges and was remanded in police custody until Wednesday.
Rogo, who had been facing charges of possessing weapons, was shot in his car by unknown attackers last Monday.
His supporters fought running street battles with security forces in the hours after his death, and sporadic violence continued over the following days. Churches were torched and two grenades were thrown at police vehicles.
The government said the violence was organised by Kenya’s ‘enemies’ and blamed Muslim radicals – including the slain cleric – for supporting al-Shabab.
The violence stoked fears that the unrest could become more sectarian in the city, a tourist hub and major Indian Ocean port, where grenade attacks blamed on Somali fighters and their sympathisers have already strained Muslim-Christian relations.
Sharif had previously been arrested in December after a grenade attack on a bus in Nairobi killed one person.
He, like Rogo, had been out on bail. The two are on a US sanctions list for allegedly supporting al-Shabab.
Both men are under a travel ban and asset freeze by the UN Security Council and the United States for supporting al-Shabab.
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‘Key al-Qaeda leader killed’ in Yemen
Yemen defence ministry says Saeed al-Shihri, second-in-command of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, has been killed.
Last Modified: 10 Sep 2012 18:43
Saeed al-Shihri, described as the second-in-command of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), has been killed in a military operation, Yemeni government officials said.
Yemen’s army website said on Monday that Shihri, a Saudi national, was killed, along with at least five other fighters, in a military operation in the remote Hadramawt province in eastern Yemen.
“The Saudi terrorist Saeed al-Shihri, the second man in al-Qaeda, was killed in a quality operation by the armed forces in Hadramawt,” the 26sep.net news website reported.
“Other terrorist elements accompanying him were also killed,” the army site added quoting what it said was a “high-ranking source,” without mentioning when the operation took place.
Senior Yemeni defence ministry officials meanwhile told The Associated Press that Shihri was killed in an airstrike. They said a missile was believed to have been fired by a US operated drone, but that could not immediately be confirmed.
AQAP is described by Washington as the most dangerous and deadliest wing of al-Qaeda.The US has used unmanned drones to target the group, which has planned attacks on international targets including airliners.
A Yemeni security source told the Reuters news agency that Shihri was killed in an operation last Wednesday which was thought to have been carried out by a US drone, rather than the Yemeni military.
The source said another Saudi and an Iraqi national were among the others killed.
Al Jazeera Interactive: Fractured Yemen
US State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said she could not confirm Shihri’s death.
“The US government.. says that they are unable to confirm that Saeed al-Shihri, the reputed number two of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, indeed has been killed,” Al Jazeera’s Rosiland Jordan reported from Washington DC on Monday.
“There have been conflicting reports about whether a US-made or operated drone was the device that led to Mr Shihri’s death. There were also some reports and some claims of responsibility coming from Yemen itself.
“So there is a lot of confusion,” she said.
The US does not usually comment on such attacks although it has used drones in the past to go after al-Qaeda members in Yemen.
Shihri is a former inmate of the US detention facility at Guantanamo Bay who was released to Saudi Arabia in 2007 and put through a Saudi rehabilitation programme for fighters.
Yemen’s government is trying to re-establish order after an uprising pushed out veteran ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh in February, but faces threats from armed fighters, southern secessionists and a Shia rebel movement in the north.
The protests and factional fighting have allowed al-Qaeda’s regional wing to seize swathes of south Yemen, and Shia Muslim Houthi rebels to carve out their own domain in the north.
The lawlessness has alarmed the US and Yemen’s much bigger neighbour Saudi Arabia, the top world oil exporter, which view the impoverished state as a new front line in their war on al-Qaeda and its affiliates.
Washington, which has pursued a campaign of assassination by drone and missile against suspected al-Qaeda members, backed a military offensive in May to recapture areas of Abyan province.
But fighters have struck back with a series of bombings and assassinations.