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Friday, 26 October, 2001, 15:17 GMT 16:17 UK
Kenya police break up anti-war protest
An earlier march in Nairobi
Many Kenyans are appalled by pro-Bin Laden demos
By Tom Mckinley in Nairobi

Police in Kenya have fired tear gas and baton charged demonstrators who took part in an anti-American protest after Friday prayers in the capital, Nairobi.

Protestors gathered in support of Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network - suspected of being behind the bombing attacks in the United States on 11 September.

Bin Laden
Bin Laden is chief suspect in the embassy bombing in Kenya

It had been organised by the little known, Al-Aqsa group but was not supported by the majority of Nairobi's Muslims.

Like the much bigger protest last week, the government had banned the action and the Muslim clerics did their best to disperse the crowd after prayers had ended at the central Jamai mosque.

But some 400 of them started chanting anti-American slogans and headed, with very little purpose or leadership into the streets.

Kenyans killed

The reaction to Friday's protest was swift and brutal.

Having covered less than a kilometre, the protestors came up against a wall of riot police.

Many of them prostrated themselves on the road, trying to demonstrate their peaceful intentions but within minutes the police charged the crowd.

President Moi
Moi backs the war on terror coalition

Amongst the pop of tear-gas canisters there was also some rifle-fire from the police, but there were no reported casualties.

The chase lasted some 20 minutes before the demonstrators had completely dispersed.

One of the riot police claimed that they had charged because the crowd had started throwing stones - this could not be verified but the response from bystanders was one of outright support for the police action.

Sheltered

Many people are appalled that such a demonstration in support of Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network could take place in Nairobi.

Osama Bin Laden, sheltered by the Taleban regime in Afghanistan, is also the prime suspect in the Nairobi bombing in 1998 in which more than 200 Kenyans died.

In view of this feeling, it is likely that any further anti-American demonstrations will be similarly dealt with by the police - with the full backing of many Kenyans.

President Moi has voiced his support for the global effort to combat terrorism following the 11 September attacks.

See also:

07 Aug 01 | Africa
Kenya remembers bomb victims
11 Oct 01 | Africa
America's 'most wanted' Africans
09 Oct 01 | Africa
Africans split on US strikes
12 Oct 01 | Africa
Anti-war protest in Nairobi
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