(A police officer holds his position outside the Masjid Mussa mosque during an operation to to suppress demonstrators reacting to the killing of an Islamic cleric at Kenya’s coastal city of Mombasa October 4, 2013. REUTERS/Joseph Okanga)

A Kenyan police crackdown on Islamists is fuelling Muslim resentment and moderate preachers say it undermines their efforts to counter recruiting by al Qaeda militants with links across the border in Somalia.

Smashing Islamist recruitment networks among its Muslim minority has become a priority for Kenya, however, as it tries to end attacks by Somali militants bent on punishing it for sending troops over the frontier to fight al Shabaab rebels.

The cost of failure was laid bare in September when al Shabaab gunmen, one of whom police say is a Kenyan from the port of Mombasa, raided the Westgate shopping mall in the Kenyan capital Nairobi. At least 67 people were killed.

Police say their tough approach, taken before Westgate but stepped up since, has limited the flow of would-be jihadists in and out of Somalia, citing a drop in the number of suspected militants they have tracked and arrested in the past year.