Police on Monday raided two controversial mosques in Mombasa, shot one youth dead, arrested another 251 and impounded an assortment of arms.
Officers numbering 480 from the General Service Unit, the Anti-Terrorism Police Unit, regular police and prisons stormed Musa and Sakina mosques at 2am.
The mosques are widely reputed to be bases of youths who are radicalised and who appeared to live there.
Police said they shot a man at Masjid Musa when he allegedly attempted to hurl a grenade at them.
Politicians, led by Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho, called on individuals who are on the police most wanted list to surrender.
“Let the law take its course and apply to any criminal. Whoever feels he is innocent should come forward,” said Mr Joho.
Senator Hassan Omar asked the police to arrest those committing crimes and not raid mosques. “Mosques don’t commit crimes,” he said.
Mvita MP Abdulswamad Shariff called for the release of the youths.
Among the items uncovered by the raid and later displayed at the police station was a black powder believed to be gunpowder, six hand grenades, two pistols and six rounds of ammunition, pangas, numerous swords and knives, smart phones, video and still picture cameras, passports, driving licences, originals and photocopies of national identity cards, certificates of good conduct and flash discs.
A brief sent to the police headquarters and seen by the Nation, however, said seven grenades were found.
Other items included a black flag similar to that of Al-Shabaab militia group, binoculars, bags, pamphlets, iron bars, screw drivers, tool boxes, two laptops, six Kenya Police badges, desktop computers, marbles, nails, sim cards, hammers, a paramilitary rocket illuminator and tens of CDs, which police said contained radicalisation teachings.
LIVED IN MOSQUE
Sixteen of the youths lived in Masjid Musa and eight in Sakina mosque, where there are kitchens, mattresses, beds and beddings, said police.
Briefing the Press at Urban Police Station, Officer Commanding Police Division Geoffrey Mayek, who led the operation, and deputy County Commissioner Mahmoud Salim, said the man who was shot dead tried to attack the officers who stormed the mosque.
“My officers could not wait to be blown up and so they shot the youth trying to hurl a hand grenade at them,” said Mr Mayek, who vowed that more operations will come “until we flush all the criminal elements out of the area”.
“Actually if you look at the number of fatalities in today’s operation, you’ll realise that the officers acted with a lot of restraint, bearing in mind that their lives were on the line if these grenades went off,” he added.
Many of the CDs contained material in praise of radical Islamic preachers Sheikh Aboud Rogo and Sheikh Makaburi, who were shot dead by unknown people.
The titles of some of the seized CDs read: “How to manage an AK-47”; “Majibu kwa wanaopinga Jihad” (The answer to opponents of Jihad); “Most Terrifying places in America 7 in One”; “Masjid Musa Dahwa”; and “Lion in the Desert”.
“Following the high level crime rate in Mvita sub-county and following intelligence reports that there are firearms and ammunition in Masjid Musa and Sakina mosque, we decided to conduct a security operation where we made major seizures,” said Mr Salim.
The two officials questioned why local human rights groups, which often condemn rights violations, did not speak out against the use of places of worship for criminal purposes.
Mr Salim said most sponsors of the two “radical and notorious Sakina mosque and Masjid Musa” had pulled out.
He asked security committees in the affected areas to come out and tell the government who manages those mosques.
“We shall continue with the operation until our mission is accomplished,” said Mr Mayek.
The police chief urged the community to cooperate with security agencies.