Kenyan state accused of role in killings of prominent Muslims

Site of Butt's assassinationBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
Human rights groups have accused the Kenyan government of being behind a spate of assassinations of prominent Muslims in the country, after a controversial Muslim businessman was shot dead in his car last week. Kenyan authorities had accused Mohamed Shahid Butt, a vocal Muslim entrepreneur, who owned several business ventures in the city of Mombasa, of inciting terrorism. He was due to appear in court in August to face charges of funding radical Muslim youth groups in Mombasa and instructing them to drive out moderate Muslim clerics from area mosques. According to court documents, the Kenyan government has been investigating several back accounts belonging to Mr. Butt, as part of a wider probe into alleged terrorism funding. However, on Friday evening the prominent businessman was gunned down in his car in Mombasa’s Chaani district by two men who then escaped, firing automatic rifles in the air. Mr. Butt was reportedly returning to downtown Mombasa from the Moi International Airport, after picking up his son who had arrived there on a flight from London. At approximately 8:15 p.m., Mr. Butt’s car was blocked and brought to a halt by another vehicle. As soon as his car was immobilized, two men emerged from the other vehicle and shot the businessman at close range before driving off. Mr. Butt died at the scene, while his son was slightly injured. Friday’s incident was the latest in a string of assassinations of prominent Muslims in the Mombasa region during the past two years. This past June, Sheikh Mohammed Idris, a moderate Sunni imam who chaired the Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya, became the fourth prominent Muslim cleric to have been shot dead in Mombasa since 2012. Prior to his assassination, Idris had been ousted from Mombasa’s Sakina mosque, where Mr. Butt had been an elder. The mosque has since become an enclave of radical Muslims and has been renamed to Mujahedeen (holy warrior) mosque. Muslim and human rights groups accuse the Kenyan government of conducting the assassinations, in an attempt to neutralize what it sees as domestic enemies of the state. In the past four years, Kenya has faced deepening ethnic divisions coupled with a seemingly growing threat by Islamist groups in neighboring Somalia, as well as a homegrown Sunni militant movement, which appears well-armed. Friday’s killing prompted many to question “the slow response of security agencies” who were present in the nearby Changamwe police station. But local authorities said police forces hesitated to pursue the attackers because they were under the impression that the police station itself was under attack by the assailants.

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