By Joseph Akwiri
MOMBASA, Kenya (Reuters) - A Muslim cleric accused of possessing explosives and radicalizing Kenyan youths into joining the Somali Islamist rebel group al Shabaab was killed in a shootout with police on Sunday, Kenyan authorities said.
Police said Khalid Ahmed, a Somali with a Kenyan passport, had been a close friend of Aboud Rogo, a slain Muslim cleric whom the Kenyan government and the United States accused of helping al Qaeda-linked Islamist militants in Somalia.
Senior police official Thomas Sangut said Ahmed was killed in an exchange of gunfire with police at his family home in the Indian Ocean port city of Mombasa. Two policemen were wounded, and a hand grenade, two gun magazines and 68 rounds of ammunition were recovered, Sangut told a news conference.
Aboud Rogo was killed in September last year when his car was sprayed with gunfire in Mombasa. Supporters blamed the attack on security services and it sparked days of deadly rioting that exposed deep social, political and sectarian divisions in Kenya's mainly Muslim coastal region. Kenyan police denied killing Rogo.
"Just like his slain friend Aboud Rogo, Khalid was a Muslim cleric and has been teaching madrassas (Islamic religious schools), from where we believe he was recruiting young innocent Kenyans to join terrorist organizations," Sangut said.
Police said Ahmed was charged with possessing explosives in 2012 but skipped bail and had been on Kenya's most wanted list of suspects ever since. "He disappeared into Somalia where he was training as a terrorist," Sangut said.
Kenya sent troops into Somalia in 2011 to battle al Shabaab after a spate of attacks in the capital Nairobi and its Indian Ocean coastline unnerved investors and tourists, threatening east Africa's biggest economy.
The Islamist force, which is linked to al Qaeda, wants to impose a strict version of Islamic law across Somalia.
Separately, Kenyan police said one of two men arrested over the murder of a British soldier in a London street last week had been detained in Kenya in 2010 on suspicion of seeking to train with al Shabaab.
The Nairobi government initially said Michael Adebolajo had never visited Kenya. But on Sunday, the head of Kenya's anti-terrorism police said Adebolajo had been detained three years ago and deported to Britain.
(Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Mark Heinrich)