Kenyan police break up demo over Jamaican cleric

19:39, January 15, 2010      

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Kenyan police fired teargas canisters on Friday to break up demonstrations called by Muslims to protest the arrest of controversial Jamaican Muslim cleric Sheikh Abdullah al-Faisal.

The police shot in the air to disperse the demonstration called by the Muslim Human Rights Forum which had started peacefully in the Kenyan capital Nairobi after the Friday prayers.

The Muslims argued that they notified the government of their intention to stage demonstration in major towns on Friday to press for the release of the Jamaican, who was last Monday forced back into the country after Nigeria declined to allow him to use its territory en route to Gambia, where he had asked to be taken.

They managed to thwart attempts by the stone-throwing demonstrators who were waving the flag of Somali militia groups to march into the Nairobi streets.

Youths waved placards castigating the government's move to arrest the cleric, whose history of radical statements and connections with convicted terrorists made him a threat to Kenya's security.

However, the peaceful demonstration soon turned ugly after a confrontation between the youths and police ensued. The police officers were forced to storm the Mosque to flush out the youths, who had sought refuge inside.

Police fired teargas canisters to disperse the youth, who in turn pelted the officers with stones. A huge pall of smoke engulfed Nairobi streets, especially near the mosque, as the two groups engaged in a cat-and-mouse chase.

Several youths were injured in the melee and were rushed to hospital by ambulance. A contingent of security officers was called in to offer reinforcement as the hide and seek battle intensified.

The Jamaican preacher was deported from Nairobi on Thursday following orders by Immigration Minister Otieno Kajwang. Al-Faisal, born Trevor William Forrest, was convicted in Britain on terrorism-related charges in 2003 and deported on release in 2007.

On arrival in Jamaica, the Islamic Council of Jamaica banned him from preaching in its mosques. The Kenyan authorities held Al-Faisal at the country's main airport for the better part of last week as they plotted his next destination.

Kenya had flown him to Lagos, Nigeria. From there, he was scheduled to fly to Gambia and then to Jamaica. But airlines in Nigeria refused to fly him to Gambia.

Kenyan authorities reportedly drove him to the border of Tanzania last Tuesday because he had entered Kenya from there, but Tanzania refused him entry.

On Thursday, Gambia offered to help get him to Jamaica, but now it is unclear how he can travel to Gambia. Muslim leaders and human rights activists said Sunday that they had spotted Faisal at a Nairobi prison.

Source: Xinhua
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