MOMBASA Kenya (Reuters) - Kenyan police shot dead one man and arrested about 250 others when they searched two mosques in the city of Mombasa that they said had been used to recruit militants and stash weapons, senior officials said on Monday.
The raid sparked a disturbance in the port city in which one more person died.
Kenya has been trying to break up the militant networks that it blames for a series of attacks on Kenya’s coastal region, home to most of its Muslims, saying many of the recruits have been inspired by the Somali Islamist group al Shabaab.
“These mosques have been notorious for radicalising our youth and recruiting them into al Shabaab,” Nelson Marwa, the commissioner responsible for administering Mombasa County, said after the raids.
Kenya has sent troops to Somalia as a part of an African Union peacekeeping force, while al Shabaab, which was behind a bloody 2013 attack on Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall, has vowed to drive the Kenyan and other African soldiers out.
Police said they had arrested 251 young militants who had been camping in the Mussa and Sakina mosques and receiving militant training. They said one man was shot dead at the Mussa mosque when he tried to throw a grenade at officers.
Mombasa police chief Geoffrey Mayek told reporters that eight grenades, a pistol, six bullets, machetes, daggers and literature on warfare had been found at the two mosques.
Police seized mobiles and laptops, alongside literature and videos that they said mentioned late al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and Kenyan preachers accused of promoting militancy.
Civil rights groups said police were targeting Muslims unfairly, deepening distrust in a community who already accuses the government in mainly Christian Kenya of sidelining them.
Businesses in the area of the mosques were closed as heavily armed police patrolled on trucks.
Later on, a group of about 10 armed youths went on a rampage, killing a man in another of the port city’s neighbourhoods and fighting running battles with police, who fired live ammunition to disperse them, police said.
One witness said the group had been shouting the Islamic chant “Allahu Akbar!” (God is Greatest).
Editing by George Obulutsa