Gunmen kill Kenyan imam amid power struggle with radicals

Mohamed Idris, 64, chairman of a key Mombasa mosque who opposed extremism, said he feared for his life.

MOMBASA, Kenya // Gunmen in the Kenyan port city of Mombasa on Tuesday shot dead an influential imam who was a vocal opponent of the radical preachings of Somalia’s Al Qaeda-linked Al Shabab insurgents, police said.

Mohamed Idris, 64, chairman of the Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya, was shot in the stomach shortly before dawn as he headed to prayers at a mosque, Mombasa police chief Robert Kitur said.

Mombasa county commissioner Nelson Marwa said it was a drive-by shooting, with unknown gunmen firing from a motorbike.

“They shot him in the abdomen and he was pronounced dead at the hospital,” Mr Marwa said. “He was a pillar of unity among our people, and he has left a vacuum.”

Idris was chairman of a key mosque that was recently taken over radical youths, and according to press reports he had been accused of helping the authorities. The imam had said he feared for his life.

“There was a power struggle at Sakina mosque – where he was supposed to be installed as a sheikh – between his supporters and another radical group opposed to him,” Mr Kitur added.

Last month several western nations urged their nationals to avoid all but essential travel to Mombasa, the scene of a string of recent bombings and shootings.

Idris’s death is the latest killing of Muslim leaders in the city, although previous shootings have been of radical leaders accused of backing Al Shabab.

Previous shootings of clerics have sparked riots, and his brother Ali Idris urged people not to take the streets to protest.

“We are calling for calm ... we cannot carry out any revenge,” he said. “God will pay the killers.”

In April, prominent hardline Muslim cleric Abubaker Shariff Ahmed, a rival of Idris, was shot dead.

Ahmed, better known as Makaburi, was a vocal supporter of Osama bin Laden and had described last year’s attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, which was claimed by Al Shabab fighters, as “100 per cent justified”.

Idris preached in mosques that radical interpretations of jihad were wrong, and that Islam was a peaceful religion that did not encourage violence. He had also urged the government arrest key financiers and radical preachers.

He is survived by four wives and 25 children.

* Agence France-Presse

Published: June 10, 2014 04:00 AM


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