Kenya mosque raids may radicalize coast: official

AP News
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Posted: Nov 21, 2014 8:09 AM

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Methods used by Kenyan authorities to tackle extremism on the country's coast will increase support for radicals, a human rights official warned Friday, after authorities raided four mosques over the last week.

Kheled Khalifa, the chairman of the group Muslim For Human Rights, said the closure of four mosques on Kenya's coast after raids in which the police said they recovered grenades and a gun has angered the Muslim population.

Some Muslims believe the police planted the weapons to justify the mosques' closures, Khalifa said. The police have said they recovered eight grenades and a pistol during the raids at the Masjid Shuhuda and Sakina mosques on Monday.

Mombasa police commander Robert Kitur has rejected claims that police planted the weapons.

The police said they arrested 251 people in the mosque sweeps. But Khalifa said many of those arrested were picked up by police in a door-to-door sweep of Muslim neighborhoods in Mombasa.

One person was killed during the raid of the two mosques on Monday. Police said they shot dead a young man trying to hurl a grenade at them.

Khalifa said prior to Monday's raid the two mosques were being closely watched following the deaths of eight people, including a policeman, during a raid in February at the Shuhuda Mosque. Police at the time said they were disrupting a radicalization seminar.

The government had previously cited the four mosques as centers for recruitment for the al-Qaida-linked Somali militant group al-Shabab, which has been blamed for the more than 135 attacks on Kenyan soil since the country sent its troops into Somalia in 2011 to fight the militants.

Khalifa said there is a "siege" mentality among Muslims on the coast and he fears that police raids against mosques will attract foreign fighters into Kenya.

Khalifa said the government should invest in intelligence gathering and charge and prosecute extremists instead of antagonizing a whole community.