A prominent Muslim Kenyan cleric, accused by the United States and UN Security Council of supporting the Somali rebel group al-Shabab, has been killed on the Kenyan coast, a police officer at the scene and a witness said.

"Our brother Abubakar Shariff Makaburi has left us. He is dead," a preacher at a mosque in Kisauni, a Muslim-dominated area near Mombasa, said through a loudspeaker on Tuesday night.

"May his soul rest in peace. He has died a brave death."

Makaburi was killed as he left a court compound about 15 km north of the port city of Mombasa, police chief for Kisauni area Richard Ngtia told journalists. Makaburi had been attending a court hearing.

Makaburi and another man were outside the court waiting to be picked up when another vehicle approached and the men were sprayed with bullets, he said. Both were killed.

A Reuters witness also identified the corpse, which appeared to have bullet wounds to the body and head.

Dozens of supporters of the cleric gathered nearby demanding police hand over the body. Police fired in the air to disperse the crowd.

Makaburi's death could stir fresh unrest in the coastal area where most of Kenya's Muslims live. Muslim youths clashed with police for three days in February after a man was killed during a police raid on a mosque used by firebrand preachers.

Kenyan police have dismissed accusations that they are to blame for extra-judicial killings. Two other leading Muslic clerics have been killed in the past two years.

The east African country, the region's largest economy, is still reeling from an al-Shabab attack on a shopping mall in Nairobi in September in which at least 67 people were killed.

Source: Reuters