eTN) – The assassination of what is largely considered a radical Islamic preacher with suspected links to Al Shabab and other terrorist groups, has left Mombasa reeling from an immediate outbreak of violence, which left one more person dead in its wake as marauding youths stoned an innocent bystander to death. The shooting happened yesterday along the main road leading into the city of Mombasa at Bamburi and almost if choreographed, youths formed mobs attacking cars and notably churches, turning their anger against another religion similar to the riots which swept Zanzibar a few months ago.
There, as was the case in Mombasa where religious tolerance was long a hallmark, it appears that radical elements within the Muslim community were prepped and let loose as on command, since the church storming appeared to be well coordinated.
The targeted shooting of Sheikh Aboud Rogo was immediately condemned by community leaders in Mombasa from all walks of life, and in particular the fact that Rogo was enroute to a hospital where he was taking his wife, who sustained gunshot wounds herself. The father of Mrs. Rogo and her young daughter thankfully escaped without injuries, a miracle considering that their car was sprayed with bullets from an automatic weapon.
Rogo was facing a court case on terrorism charges but was out on bail. No stranger to such allegations, he was also charged in connection with the bombing of a beach resort in Kikambala and attempted shooting down of an Israeli jetliner flying out of Mombasa but was eventually acquitted for lack of evidence.
The coast tourism fraternity, as well as top government officials, including President Kibaki, appealed for calm, and the massive deployment of security personnel following the revenge attacks appears to have served the purpose as Mombasa and its environs was reported to be calm, though few people were out and traffic was notably almost nil.
Tourism arrivals at the coast, compared to a year ago, are down by about 20 percent, and this incident will do little to restore market confidence overseas, where the sudden alarmist withdrawal of US personnel from the coast a few weeks ago already rocked the tourism trade, before the order was reversed a week later.
Said a regular source from Mombasa: “This incident was uncalled for. The man was facing charges in court, and in a civilized society there should be no place for such extra judicial killings. The same applies for the mobs which then formed to attack churches and burn cars. If they want to destroy the livelihood of coast people, all of whom depend on tourism, that is the way to go. This will make bad headlines, and though calm was restored very quickly, unlike in Zanzibar where it took days to sort out the violence, the damage was done.
“Mombasa was NOT on fire as international media have claimed. There was a geographically limited situation, and while that was bad and regrettable, it was swiftly contained when security moved in. So please let everyone know that Mombasa is calm as I write this [e]mail to you, and that no tourists were anywhere near the mobs.”
Other sources, too, confirmed that while most people stayed indoors, no rowdy scenes were seen late in the day yesterday in Mombasa itself, and traffic was low but normal.