FOUR people were stabbed to death in Kenya’s volatile port city of Mombasa following security raids on mosques in which a man was killed and 250 people arrested, police said Tuesday.
The gang took to the streets Monday night in apparent revenge attacks, beating some and stabbing others, following the raids earlier in the day targeting the two mosques accused of links with Somalia’s Al-Qaeda affiliated Al Shabaab militants.
“We are investigating the incident and have arrested some of the suspects,” local police chief Richard Ngatia said.
Police said the group was armed with crude weapons when they attacked residents of the town’s Kisauni district.
During the raids a 20-year-old man was shot dead by police after he tried to throw a grenade. Police seized hand grenades and a pistol.
Hussein Khalid, from the Mombasa-based civil society group HAKI Africa, had previously condemned the police raids, warning that “force will only act to heighten tension in what is already a volatile situation.”
Western nations have warned their nationals to avoid all but essential travel to Mombasa, a key transport hub as well as an important tourist centre for the country’s Indian Ocean coastline.
The city has been hit by bombings and shootings since Kenya invaded Somalia in 2011 to attack the Shabaab, later joining an African Union force battling the Islamists.
The Shabaab carried out the September 2013 attack on Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall, killing at least 67 people as a warning to Kenya to pull its troops out of southern Somalia.
Several Islamic preachers have been shot dead in Mombasa in recent years in alleged extra-judicial killings by security forces and power struggles between rival Muslim factions. Churches have also been attacked.
Meanwhile North African jihadist group Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb released a video Monday purporting to show a French and a Dutch hostage held since November 2011 in the Sahara.
In the video, found on the Internet by the private terrorism watchdog SITE, French national Serge Lazarevic and a man identifying himself as Sjaak Rijke appeal to their governments to negotiate their release.
There is nothing in the footage of Lazarevic to suggest when it was shot, but Rijke says he is speaking on September 26 this year and refers to a US-Taliban prisoner exchange conducted in May.
Lazarevic, 50, who was kidnapped in the Malian town of Hombori in November 2011, appears in a dark headdress and with a thick beard in the front of a pick-up truck with a black jihadist banner behind him.
Speaking in French, he complains that he is gravely ill and urges President Francois Hollande to seek his release.
Lazarevic last appeared in an AQIM propaganda video in June.
French authorities confirmed the authenticity of the latest video. The footage is “recent proof of life that was long overdue”, the presidential office said in a statement. “The president is in permanent contact with the authorities of the countries in the region to use all forms of dialogue to achieve the release of our hostage,” it said.
The hostage who identifies himself as Rijke appears against the backdrop of a simple off-white sheet. Speaking in Dutch-accented English, he too urges his home government to help free him.
Rijke, 54, was kidnapped as a tourist in the Malian town of Timbuktu, also in November 2011. He has appeared in a series of AQIM videos, most lately in September 2013. The Dutch foreign ministry said it was aware of the latest video, which lasts less than four minutes. “In the interest of the family we will not be commenting,” a spokeswoman told AFP.
Lazarevic, who has dual French and Serbian citizenship, is the last French hostage still being held worldwide, after hiker Herve Gourdel was abducted in Algeria and beheaded in September by Islamic State-linked militants. Lazarevic was accompanying Frenchman Philippe Verdon on a business trip when they were both seized by armed men in Mali’s north, relatives said. Verdon was found shot dead last year.