Three dead in Kenya riots sparked by killing of Muslim cleric (VIDEO, PHOTOS)

At least three people were killed in the port city of Mombasa during two days of violence that saw churches burned and cars destroyed. It followed the assassination of a Muslim cleric accused by the US of aiding al-Qaeda-affiliated Somali militants.

On Tuesday, one police officer was killed and 16 others injured when a protester threw a grenade at a police truck. A civilian was also killed in unrelated violence.

Local youths barricaded the streets with burning tires in the predominantly Muslim Majengo neighborhood.  Dozens of car were set on fire, and several shops were looted.

Police used teargas and warning shots to disperse stone-throwing protesters, and to keep the violence from spreading after one person was killed and many others hospitalized on Monday, when the protests began.  

“We are trying to contain them so that we don't create more deaths. Deaths and destruction of property will not help with anything," the AP quoted local Police Chief Aggrey Adoli as saying.

Protesters razed two Christian churches, setting fire to furniture. At least four other churches were vandalized, as altars were damaged and chairs broken. Church leaders canceled plans for a protest march on Tuesday over fears that it could trigger more violence, Reuters reported.

One Monday, the first day of protests, one person was hacked to death. Many others were taken to local hospitals for their injuries. A General Service Unit (GSU) officer was among those reported injured.

Police are asking Muslim elders and religious leaders to urge the young protesters to end the violence, Adoli said. Hotels owners said that the violence has badly affected Mombasa's tourism industry, the main pillar of the city's economy.

Rioters burn tires in Kenya′s port city of Mombasa for a second day after the killing of an extremist cleric linked to Al-Qaeda-allied Shebab militants on August 28, 2012. (AFP Photo/Stringer)
Rioters burn tires in Kenya's port city of Mombasa for a second day after the killing of an extremist cleric linked to Al-Qaeda-allied Shebab militants on August 28, 2012. (AFP Photo/Stringer)

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Religious violence comes to the surface

­The unrest began on Monday following the assassination of Muslim cleric Aboud Rogo Mohammed, who was shot and killed while driving with his family – his wife, father and five-year old daughter – in their car on August 27.

An investigation into the killing of Mohammed has been launched, and staff from Kenyan Police headquarters in Nairobi recently arrived in Mombasa.

Some of the rioters considered the killing an attack against all Muslims, and allege it was a targeted assassination by the police. Mohammed's widow, Hania Said, claimed the shooters were Kenyan police. The police denied involvement in the killing

Somalian militant Islamist group Al-Shabab condemned the killing of Mohammed, and called on Muslims in Kenya to boycott next year's presidential election.

"Muslims must take the matter into their own hands, stand united against the Kuffar [non-Muslims] and take all necessary measures to protect their religion, their honor, their property and their lives from the enemies of Islam," Al-Shabab said in a statement.

Mohammed was on a US-UN sanctions list for allegedly backing Al-Shabab, which is believed to be affiliated with Al-Qaeda.  The UN Security Council banned him from traveling and froze his assets in July, claiming in a report that he was providing "financial, material, logistical or technical support to Al-Shabab."

He was labeled the "main ideological leader" of Kenya's Al-Hijra group, also known as the Muslim Youth Center (MYC), which is viewed as a close ally of Al-Shabab. Earlier, in January, Kenyan police detained Mohammed and confiscated a cache of guns, ammunition and detonators. He faced charges of membership in Al-Shabab.

Mohammed was previously acquitted of the 2002 bombing of an Israeli-owned hotel near Mombasa, which killed 15.

Mohammed is the fifth alleged Islamic extremist who has been killed has disappeared in the last four months, human rights campaigners said.

Kenyan paramilitary police walk past burning tyres in Kenya′s port city of Mombasa during a second day of clashes after the killing of an extremist cleric linked to Al-Qaeda-allied Shebab militants on August 28, 2012.(AFP Photo/Stringer)
Kenyan paramilitary police walk past burning tyres in Kenya's port city of Mombasa during a second day of clashes after the killing of an extremist cleric linked to Al-Qaeda-allied Shebab militants on August 28, 2012.(AFP Photo/Stringer)
A policeman prepares to lob a tear-gas canister in the direction of protesting youths in the coastal town of Mombasa August 28, 2012. (Reuters/Joseph Okanga)
A policeman prepares to lob a tear-gas canister in the direction of protesting youths in the coastal town of Mombasa August 28, 2012. (Reuters/Joseph Okanga)
Police used teargas and warning shots to disperse stone-throwing protesters (AP video shot)
Police used teargas and warning shots to disperse stone-throwing protesters (AP video shot)
One person was killed and many others hospitalized(AP video shot)
One person was killed and many others hospitalized(AP video shot)
Policemen stand round a demonstrator arrested during protests by youths in the coastal town of Mombasa August 28, 2012. (Reuters/Joseph Okanga)
Policemen stand round a demonstrator arrested during protests by youths in the coastal town of Mombasa August 28, 2012. (Reuters/Joseph Okanga)
Dozens of car were set on fire (AP video shot)
Dozens of car were set on fire (AP video shot)
Several shops have been looted (AP video shot)
Several shops have been looted (AP video shot)