Hardline Kenya cleric, the face of homegrown radical Islam

20140311_reuters_nairobi-westgate.jpg

Hardline Kenya cleric, the face of homegrown radical Islam
A section of the Westgate Shopping Mall is pictured undergoing renovations after al Qaeda-linked militants launch an attack on the mall in Nairobi.

MOMBASA, Kenya - When Islamist gunmen stormed Nairobi's Westgate shopping mall on a busy Saturday in September, the ensuing carnage also intensified fears that Kenya's homegrown Islamists were on the rise.

Although the attackers were from Somalia's Al-Qaeda-inspired Shebab rebels, the group's ability to infiltrate and operate in Kenya, as well as find a stream of willing recruits, has focussed attention on radical Islamists based down the coast in the Kenyan port city of Mombasa.

At the heart of the steamy port hub sits the Musa mosque, seen by Kenyan authorities as the epicentre of a new terrorist threat. Its key figure, Abubaker Shariff Ahmed, better known as Makaburi, does little to hide his firebrand leanings.

"It's our innocents for your innocents. It was justified. As per the Quran, as per the religion of Islam, Westgate was 100 per cent justified," the Muslim cleric said of the attack that left at least 67 dead, among them women and children cut down by machine gun fire or grenades.

"Are the ones being killed and raped in Somalia not innocent?" Makaburi said in an interview with AFP in his austere Mombasa office, seizing on Shebab's justification for the mall attack - Kenya's military presence in southern Somalia.

"The KDF (Kenyan army) is doing the same thing and worse in Somalia than what happened at Westgate. So as per the Islamic religion, they had every right to avenge whatever the KDF is doing in Somalia." Makaburi asserted that no real Muslims died in the upmarket, part-Israeli-owned mall.

"How come a Muslim is at a shopping mall instead of being at a mosque?" he said, adding that the "Americans and the Western governments are killing innocent people all over the world everyday, they're bombing weddings, funerals." The real "terrorists", Makaburi argued, were the military personnel operating drones.

"How come the pilots of the drones are not labelled as terrorists? How come when we Muslims are being killed by the Americans using drones, by the British, by whoever, by the West, it's nothing, but when you have a single non-Muslim killed by a Muslim, it's terrorism?"

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