One dead in Muslim demo

Friday January 15 2010

Tear gas smoke billows outside the Jamia Mosque in Nairobi's Banda Street after police broke up a demonstration called to protest the arrest of radical Jamaican Muslim cleric Sheikh Abdullah al-Faisal. Photo/PHOEBE OKALL.

Tear gas smoke billows outside the Jamia Mosque in Nairobi's Banda Street after police broke up a demonstration called to protest the arrest of radical Jamaican Muslim cleric Sheikh Abdullah al-Faisal. Photo/PHOEBE OKALL. 

By ANTHONY KARIUKI

One person died in a confrontation between police and rowdy youths after a demonstration to protest the arrest of controversial Jamaican Muslim cleric Sheikh Abdullah al-Faisal turned violent Friday.

However, Muslim leaders put the death toll at four.

Four others suffered injuries, including a police officer and were rushed to hospital by ambulance.

The demo, called by the Muslim Human Rights Forum, started peacefully at the Jamia Mosque in Nairobi's Banda Street at 1.30 p.m

Youths waving placards castigating the government's move to arrest the cleric, who is on an international terror watchlist, and his botched deportation, took to the streets after their Friday prayers.

Some of the protesters were chanting "Allahu Akbar" (God is great) and others displayed what was thought to be the flag of Somali rebel group al Shabaab.

However, the demonstration soon turned ugly as a confrontation between the youths and police ensued.

Police fired live rounds and teargas canisters to disperse the youth, who in turn pelted the officers with stones. A huge pall of smoke engulfed Banda Street as the two groups engaged in a cat-and -mouse chase.

A contingent of the General Service Unit was called in to offer reinforcement as the back and forth battle intensified.

At one point, the GSU stormed the Mosque to flush out the youths, who had sought refuge inside.

Shops adjacent to the mosque were looted and vehicles that were parked on the streets had their windscreens smashed by stone-throwing youths.

Angry members of the public joined in the melee and helped police to confront the advancing Muslim youths.

The cleric, who was seized on New Year’s Eve in Mombasa, was being held at the Industrial Area remand station as the government plotted his next destination.

He had been deported to The Gambia last week on the orders of Immigration minister Otieno Kajwang, but was returned on Sunday morning after Nigeria refused to give him passage.

Mr al-Faisal arrived in Kenya on December, 24 last year after travelling through Nigeria, Angola, Mozambique, Swaziland and Malawi and Tanzania.