A pastor was shot dead in the Kenyan port city of Mombasa when unknown gunmen struck during a church service on Sunday in a neighbourhood hit by several attacks in recent months.
The shooting took place in Majengo, a crowded and impoverished area mainly inhabited by Muslims, and scene of frequent clashes between Kenyan police and radical youths.
They have battled over crackdowns on mosques in the area believed to be recruiting and training young people to join Islamist militants al Shabaab in Somalia.
Witnesses said the two attackers at the Maximum Revival ministries church sneaked into the compound through a sidegate, avoiding two armed policemen who were manning the main gate.
“They tried to force their way into the church, but when some worshippers stopped them, one drew a gun and shot the pastor,” said Phylis Wairimu, a church member, standing next to the dead pastor’s body on the ground in a pool of blood.
Police described the shooting as an isolated criminal incident saying they had no reason to link it to Islamist militants.
“We have launched a manhunt for the assailants,” Henry Ondiek, Mombasa criminal investigation officer, told reporters at the scene.
The coast’s large Muslim population, many of whom feel marginalized by the predominantly Christian government, have been a fertile recruitment ground for Islamist militant networks.
Breaking up those networks has become a priority for the Nairobi government but moderate clerics say its heavy-handed tactics have fuelled resentment among Muslim youths.