64 Dead In Two Explosions In Kampala
64 people are dead and about 70 others were injured in two explosions in Kampala, Uganda. The explosions happened at a Rugby Club facility and at an Ethiopian restaurant. At the Rugby Club, as reported by the Ugandan Police, the blast claimed 49 victims as they watched the World Cup on a large screen. Another 15 were killed at a restaurant at the Ethiopian Village. Both venues are popular destinations for expatriates living in Kampala.
Most of those killed and injured are believed to be foreign nationals who are possibly a primary target of the bombings. The authorities have not yet released the names and nationalities of those killed, but the US embassy in Kampala confirmed at least one American, reported to be an aid worker from California, among the dead. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the US would work with the Ugandan government “to bring the perpetrators of this crime to justice”. Ugandan Police said Ethiopian, Indian and Congolese nationals were also among those killed and wounded.
“These bombs were definitely targeting World Cup crowds,” said Insp Gen Kale Kayihura. He warned people to stay away from large crowds in the coming days. The explosions ripped through the venues with about 10 minutes remaining in Sunday night’s match. BBC News reports that “at both scenes chairs lay overturned, with blood and pieces of flesh on the floor.”
Insp Gen Kayihura said he believed Somalia’s militant group al-Shabab could be behind Sunday evening’s attacks. The Police are also investigating whether the blasts were suicide bombings. In Mogadishu, a militant commander said he was “happy” with the attacks in Uganda. However, Sheik Yusuf Sheik Issa refused to confirm or deny that al-Shabab was responsible. He told the Associated Press news agency: “Uganda is one of our enemies. Whatever makes them cry, makes us happy. May Allah’s anger be upon those who are against us.”
Uganda’s President, Yoweri Museveni, toured the scene of the blast. He criticized the attacks and said his country would not “run away” from its commitments in Mogadishu. “People who are watching football are not people who should be targeted”, he said. “If they [attackers] want a fight, they should go and look for soldiers”. “We shall go for them wherever they are coming from,” Museveni said. “We will look for them and get them as we always do.”
Somalia’s president condemned the blasts and described the attack as “barbaric”. US President Barack Obama said he is “deeply saddened by the loss of life resulting from these deplorable and cowardly attacks”. The African Union has said “the attacks will not affect its summit”, which is due to be held in Uganda from July 19-27. The AU and African countries are resolved to fight terrorism with the international community,” said Ramtane Lamamra, AU’s peace and security commissioner.
Somali militants have been involved in terror attacks across East Africa in the past. They were linked to a number of East Africa attacks, including the 1998 US Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania in which more than 200 people died and the 2002 attacks in Mombasa, Kenya in which 15 people were killed. If proven, it would be the first time that Somali terrorists have struck outside Somalia. BBC’s Will Ross, in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, says there is no proof as yet of al-Shabab was involvement. The blasts could be linked to next year’s elections in Uganda, he adds.
The attack on the Ethiopian-owned restaurant raised high suspicions of al-Shabab involvement. In addition, there were also reports of a severed head found at one of the blast scenes, leading investigators to suggest that the attacks could have been the work of suicide bombers. Secondly, Ethiopia’s government backs Somalia’s fragile government against the rebels and had troops in Somalia between December 2006 to January 2009. In addition to having fought two wars with Somalia, al-Shabab also accuses Ethiopia of meddling in Somali affairs.
The African Union Mission force in Somalia (AMISOM) is engaged in frequent firefights with Islamist insurgents which control much of southern and central Somalia. About 5,000 African Union troops from Uganda and Burundi are based in Mogadishu to protect the interim government. In addition to Uganda’s troops in Mogadishu, Uganda also hosts Somali soldiers trained in U.S. and European-backed programs. Al-Qaeda, linked al-Shabab has threatened to hit Kampala in the past. Ugandan army spokesman, Felix Kulayigye, said it was too early to speculate about any military response to the attacks.
Uganda travel safety and security information can be found on the travel.state.gov website.