MOMBASA, Kenya – A grenade attack wounded four policemen in the latest outbreak of violence in Kenya's coastal city of Mombasa, ending what had seemed to be a lull in violence stemming from the killing on Monday of a radical Islamist preacher, a police officer said late Monday.
A hand grenade was hurled into a police van carrying several security officials who were patrolling the precincts of Mombasa Pentecostal Church, critically wounding three of them, police officer Kipkemboi Rop said.
The grenade attack shattered the relative calm that had started to spread over the city on the third day after the killing of Muslim cleric Aboud Rogo Mohammed, who had been sanctioned by the U.S. and U.N. for his alleged support for al-Shabab, an Al Qaeda-linked militant group in Somalia. He was shot to death by unidentified gunmen Monday morning as he drove in his car with his family. His wife was wounded in a leg.
Businesses reopened Wednesday morning in most parts of Mombasa after youths rioted for two days, angered over the killing of a hardline Muslim cleric.
The rioting on Monday and Tuesday had brought this vibrant city, Kenya's second-biggest, to a near standstill, left four people dead and several churches and businesses damaged, but some businesses had reopened Wednesday.
Police reinforcements helped contain attempts by youths from the populous Majengo area to continue with the protests for a third day.
Prime Minister Raila Odinga, addressing an interfaith meeting at Nyali Beach in Mombasa, said leaflets were circulating in Mombasa and Nairobi, claiming he was behind the killing. Odinga said the leaflets allege that he went to Israel and hired mercenaries who came to eliminate Mohammed, who was facing several terror-related charges.
Odinga denied the claims. The premier also confirmed that the government will compensate churches and businesses that were looted or burned during the protests.
Youths started to erect roadblocks of burning tires Wednesday but were chased away by police using tear gas and batons. Paramilitary and regular police patrolled Majengo on trucks while others carried out door-to-door searches for suspected looters and rioters.
Two dozen people arrested on Tuesday in the riots were arraigned in a Mombasa court Wednesday. They were charged with two counts of taking part in an unlawful assembly and taking part in a riot and were to be taken to Shimo la Tewa prison pending a ruling on their bond terms.
Hassan Joho, a member of parliament for the Kisauni area, where a grenade was thrown Tuesday into a truck full of security officers going to stop protesters from burning a church, urged his constituents to maintain peace. He said that if paramilitary police known as the General Service Unit, who have a reputation for brutality, are deployed to their area, they won't discriminate between rioters and those who are not involved in chaos.
Two prison guards who were wounded in the grenade attack died Wednesday, said James Kodiany, the Coast regional prisons boss. Another guard died on Tuesday in the grenade attack. A civilian was killed on Monday in the rioting.
At the scene of Mohammed's killing, his wife had angrily accused police of the murder.
"It is you policemen who have killed him, we don't want a post-mortem or any help from you," Khaniya Said Sagar told police who came to assist her.
Khaniya said that her husband had been driving her to the hospital for a checkup after she had a miscarriage two weeks ago.
The Muslim Human Rights Forum has called the shooting of Mohammed an "extrajudicial killing" and demanded an "an end to targeted killings and enforced disappearances of terrorism suspects."
But police Commissioner Mathew Iteere said that no police were involved in Mohammed's death.
Keriako Tobiko, Kenya's Director of Public Prosecutions, has formed a team to investigate the homicide made up of members of the police, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, the Lawyers Society of Kenya and the Independent Policing Oversight Authority.
Police had said Mohammed was part of terror cell affiliated to al-Shabab that was planning to bomb Kenyan targets over Christmas. Al-Shabab has vowed to carry out a large-scale attack in Nairobi in retaliation for Kenya sending troops into Somalia to fight the Islamist insurgents.
Mohammed was acquitted in 2005 of murder charges for the 2002 bombing of a tourist hotel near Mombasa which killed more than 12 people.
He is the fifth alleged Muslim extremist who has been killed or who disappeared in the last four months, according to human rights campaigners. One corpse was found mutilated and the other four men vanished.
The killing brought to the surface tensions in Mombasa, a city established centuries ago by Muslim traders from the Arabian peninsula and the Indian subcontinent, now home to hundreds of thousands of people of Arab descent and a large Somali population.