Kenyan rioters torch church after Muslim cleric killed: police

MOMBASA, Kenya (AFP) - Rioters set fire to a protestant church in Kenya's port city of Mombasa on Friday, in furious battles with the police sparked by the killing of a Muslim cleric, police said.

"They have burnt the Salvation Army church and we are now trying to repulse them with tear gas," a senior police officer said.

Witnesses said one protestor was shot and wounded, as paramilitary police moved in to Mombasa's Majengo district.

"He was shot in the stomach and has been taken to a clinic... he is bleeding profusely and we just pray for him," said Salim Abdalla, a witness.

It was not clear who fired the shot.

Riots were sparked after unknown gunmen killed four people including a popular Muslim preacher in a drive-by shooting late on Thursday.

Slain cleric Sheikh Ibrahim Ismail was viewed as the successor to Aboud Rogo Mohammed, a controversial preacher accused of links to Somalia's Shebab insurgents, who was himself assassinated in a similar drive-by shooting in August 2012.

Rogo's killing sparked days of deadly rioting in Mombasa.

Like in the case of Rogo, radical preachers have said the killing of Ismail was an "execution" by the police, claims the force has denied.

Thick smoke apparently from burning tyres rose around Mombasa's Masjid Musa mosque - where Ismail used to preach - while police fired tear gas and youths hurled stones back in return.

An AFP reporter said fire engines were tackling the blaze at the church.

The killing of the cleric follows an attack last month by the Shebab, who launched a deadly assault on an upmarket Nairobi shopping mall, killing at least 67 people in a four-day bloodbath.

The Islamists have since threatened "rivers of blood" would flow in fresh attacks if Kenya does not pull its troops out of Somalia.

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