DEADLY riots have broken out in Kenya’s main port of Mombasa after the assassination of a radical cleric linked to Somalia’s al-Qaeda-allied al-Shabab militants.

At least one person was hacked to death as thousands of angry protesters took to the streets on Monday after Aboud Rogo Mohammed – who was on US and UN sanction lists for allegedly supporting al-Shabab – was shot dead.

“A car behind us aimed at my husband, they shot him on the right side,” said his widow Haniya Said, screaming in grief after the killing by unknown attackers.

“One person has been killed, he was slashed to death during the protests,” said regional police chief Aggrey Adoli.

Cars were set on fire and two churches were looted in the city – Kenya’s main port and a key tourist hub – according to an AFP reporter.

“There is chaos in town now, and our officers are on the ground dispersing the rioters to maintain peace,” added Adoli. “They are demonstrating against the killing of Aboud Rogo, who was shot by unknown people.”

Witnesses said Mohammed’s car was riddled with bullets, and a photograph released by his supporters showed his bloody corpse slumped behind the wheel of a car.

“He died as we rushed him to hospital. Why have they killed my dear husband?” his widow said, before she and her children were taken to the hospital.

Mohammed was placed on a US sanctions list in July for “engaging in acts that directly or indirectly threaten the peace, security or stability of Somalia”, specifically for recruiting and fundraising for the hardline al-Shabab.

The United Nations Security Council placed a travel ban and asset freeze on the cleric in July, saying he had provided “financial, material, logistical or technical support to al-Shabab”.

“The whole city is on fire; there are looters in the streets, cars have been damaged, some have been burnt,” said Francis Auma, from the local organisation Muslims for Human Rights.

The local Muslim Human Rights Forum condemned Mohammed’s assassination, claiming it “mirrors” the recent killings or disappearance of others “on the country’s terrorism watch list”.

Mohammed was previously acquitted of the 2002 bombing of an Israeli-owned hotel near Mombasa that killed 15 people – 12 Kenyans and three Israelis – as well as three suicide bombers.

The cleric is also alleged to have introduced Fazul Abdullah Mohammed – the late head of al-Qaeda’s east Africa cell, shot dead last year in Somalia’s war-torn capital, Mogadishu – to at least one of the men who helped him carry out the twin US embassy bombings in 1998.

The bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam killed 224 people.

Mohammed, born on Kenya’s Lamu island, was aged between 43 and 52, according to different aliases.