November 21, 2014 / 10:23 AM / in 3 years

Mosque raids provoke clashes in Kenya's Mombasa port

A woman stands outside the Masjid Swafaa mosque after policemen conducted a raid in the Kisauni area of the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa November 19, 2014. REUTERS/Joseph Okanga

MOMBASA Kenya (Reuters) - Armed police patrolled streets in the Kenyan port city of Mombasa on Friday and many businesses were shut after clashes broke out with Moslem youths following a raid on a mosque.

Officers fired warning shots on Thursday night as about 20 men tried to force their way into the Swafaa mosque, which had been shut down the day before after explosives were seized there.

Mombasa police commander Robert Kitur said 13 people were arrested in the clashes.

Police have conducted multiple raids in Mombasa in recent months to try to break up Islamist militant networks it blames for attacks in the capital Nairobi and along its Indian Ocean coast which it says are inspired by al Shabaab, an al Qaeda-linked Somali group.

Police had seized petrol bombs, bomb activators and literature linked to jihadism in Wednesday’s raid on Swafaa and Mina mosques and arrested 109 people on suspicion they were undergoing militant training.

“The mosques remain crime scenes and anyone trying to access risks being shot,” Kitur said.

Dozens of armed police patrolled Kisauni and Majengo areas and pitched camp at the closed mosques as businesses around the areas remained closed on Friday fearing unrest during noon prayers.

Shuttering the mosques - now five in total - has provoked an outcry from Muslim youths, who have demanded access to them for prayer.

“They cannot stop us from praying especially this Friday. We will go in there, whether they like it or not. Let them shoot us if they like,” a youth who identified himself as Osama, told Reuters near Swafaa mosque.

(This story has been refiled to change dateline from Nairobi)

Editing by Edith Honan and Angus MacSwan

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