By Herve Bar (AFP) – Jan 18, 2010
NAIROBI — Kenyan police detained 300 Somali immigrants and a leading Muslim activist as tension mounted between the authorities and the nation's Muslim minority following a deadly protest last week.
As the government scrambled to find countries willing to take in hardline Jamaican preacher Abdullah al-Faisal, whose botched deportation sparked the unrest, police vowed to deal firmly with a new protest planned on Friday.
The elite paramilitary General Service Unit and the anti-terrorism police raided Nairobi's Eastleigh neighbourhood late Sunday and detained 300 people said to be illegal Somali immigrants.
"Those arrested are in the country illegally, they had no valid documents," a senior police officer said. "They are being detained in various police stations as investigations into their stay in Kenya continue."
On Friday, hundreds of Muslim youths demonstrated after Friday prayers in and around Nairobi's main mosque compound, clashing with police as they demanded the release of the controversial Jamaican imam.
Five people died and several were wounded during running street battles that lasted hours and during which police fired live rounds and tear gas.
The police sweep in Eastleigh -- Nairobi's main Somali neighbourhood -- followed claims by the government that Somalia's hardline Islamist Shebab group had infiltrated the demonstration.
"The security operation is part of the investigation going on after Friday's demonstrations by Muslim youths in the city centre," the senior police official added, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Al-Faisal, who is on a global terror watchlist and served four years in a British jail for inciting racial hatred, has been in Kenyan custody for more than a week after the authorities tried and failed to deport him.
Kenyan Interior Minister George Saitoti alleged that Somalia's Al Qaeda-linked Shebab movement was involved in the demonstration.
On Monday, the executive coordinator of the Muslim Human Rights Forum, Al Amin Kimathi, was detained as he attended a court session for members of his association arrested during last Friday's protest.
"We had been looking for him since last night but now we have him in custody," national police spokesman Erick Kiraithe said.
"He was arrested for planning the mayhem witnessed in Nairobi on Friday. He was the key organiser and he knew very well that the demonstration had been outlawed, yet he went ahead and assembled hooligans to cause chaos and destroy property in town," Kiraithe said.
Another demonstration demanding the release of Abdullah al-Faisal was being planned by Muslim groups for Friday after prayers in Mombasa, the heart of Kenya's Muslim community.
The leader of the Mombasa Muslim Youths organisation, Sheikh Abubakari Ahmed, promised that the protest would be peaceful and said that he had notified the police.
"The demonstration would start after the Friday afternoon prayers at the famous Makadara ground to the Coast provincial commissioner's headquarters to present the government with a memorandum," he said.
Mombasa police chief Tom Odera denied the authorisation and vowed to crush any attempt to hold the protest regardless.
"The police would deal ruthlessly with any one breaking the law", he said.
Kenya's attempts to deport the cleric, first to Tanzania and then to Gambia, have failed due to the refusal by authorities and airlines to grant him entry.
Speaking at a parliamentary retreat near the city of Naivasha, around 100 kilometres (60 miles) north of Nairobi, Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula said Kenya would complete Faisal's deportation by Wednesday.
"It's too early to give the final details but we are in the process of deporting the Jamaican preacher within forty-eight hours," he said.
Wetangula said that two countries which he did not name had moved in to assist Kenya in deporting the imam.
Faisal, 45, was arrested in Britain in 2003 after spending years urging his audiences to kill Jews, Hindus and Westerners.
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