Fiery jihadist Sheikh Abubakar Shariff aka ‘Makaburi’ was on Tuesday shot dead by unknown gunmen.
The controversial preacher was felled by a hail of bullets as he left the Shimo La Tewa Maximum Prison in Mombasa in the evening as he awaited a decision from the Shanzu Law Courts, where he had applied for easing of his bail conditions.
A college student, identified as Hassidh Bayeko was also killed while others who were injured were admitted to hospital. Witnesses said armed attackers pulled up in a black car and opened fire on the four men as they waited for the court gate to be opened.
Sheikh Makaburi was facing charges of being a member of a terror group. He had denied the charge.
Makaburi is accused of recruiting Muslim youth into Al Shabaab and radicalising them, charges he denies, despite holding extremist views of Islam.
For example, he has argued that it was justified for Al-Shabaab gunmen to raid Westgate mall last year and slaughter more than 60 shoppers, many of them women and children.
Makaburi becomes the third high-profile Muslim cleric to be shot dead in less than two years.
Last October, another cleric Ibrahim Omar was shot with two other men as he drove home after preaching in Mombasa. And, in July 2012, Sheikh Aboud Rogo was killed in a similar way by people said to have been trailing him. His killing that remains unresolved led to protests.
Last evening, there was tension in the coastal city after claims the cleric’s killing as he awaited a ruling on whether the Court would vary his bond.
Last week on Wednesday, the controversial preacher whose outspoken support for Al Shabaab earned him notoriety, was awarded Sh670, 000 in damages for unlawful detention of his property.
Mombasa High Court judge Maureen Odero said the cleric should be paid after his property was seized by police during a raid on his house four years ago. She said that the police failed to persuade the court why they detained electronic equipment, phones and computer accessories they had seized in Sheikh Makaburi’s house.
Police had accuse Sheikh Makaburi of advocating jihad, or holy war, radicalising the youth and recruiting fighters for Al Shabaab, which has been carrying out a campaign of terror against Kenya, killing dozens. Sheikh Makaburi denies the claims but has publicly said Al Shabaab was justified in killing 67 people at Westgate.
In February last year, Sheikh Makaburi, a close ally of Sheikh Rogo, sought refuge at a Mombasa police station claiming his life was in danger. At the time, he claimed he had been trailed by people he suspected to be members of the Anti-Terror Police Unit.
The police denied the allegation.
Sheikh Rogo was the fifth suspected terrorist to either disappear or be killed in 2012. His death led to mass protests in Mombasa in which the police were pelted with stones, and even explosives.
Two churches were burnt and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Keriako Tobiko formed a taskforce to investigate the killing.
In August 2013, the Taskforce failed to identify his killers complaining that witnesses refused to come forward.
“During investigations and despite several appeals by the Taskforce and the police in various media, the public did not come forward to volunteer information regarding the crime despite assurances given by the Task Force,” the report said.
“Witnesses were not free to volunteer information hence impacting negatively on the flow of information and the quality of evidence.”
The team, drawn from the police, the Law Society of Kenya, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) office, Independent Police Oversight Authority, Ombudsman and the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) said that despite leads on how the killers looked like, there was no tangible clue to their identify.
Two other suspects Sylvester Opiyo alias Musa Osodo and Jacob Musyoka alias Yaqub Musyoka disappeared mysteriously in May last year. Opiyo had earlier been charged with terrorism alongside Mohammed Jaffar and Mwanzia Osaka. They, too, disappeared afterwards.
Sheikh Makaburi has publicly supported Somali militants, al-Shabaab, on various occasions. In an earlier interview with an AFP reporter, he said the attacks the group has masterminded on Kenyan soil were a response to what Kenyan soldiers, working under Amisom, have been doing to Somalis.