Uganda 'Our Attackers Will Face Justice': Two Terrorist Attacks in the Uganda Capital, Kampala, on 11 July, Have Changed Life in the Country for Good. A Defiant President Yoweri Museveni Says the Terrorists "Have Invited Problems for Themselves. We Shall Look for Them Wherever They Are and Get Them." Agnes Asiimwe Reports from Kampala

By Asiimwe, Agnes | New African, August-September 2010 | Go to article overview

Uganda 'Our Attackers Will Face Justice': Two Terrorist Attacks in the Uganda Capital, Kampala, on 11 July, Have Changed Life in the Country for Good. A Defiant President Yoweri Museveni Says the Terrorists "Have Invited Problems for Themselves. We Shall Look for Them Wherever They Are and Get Them." Agnes Asiimwe Reports from Kampala


Asiimwe, Agnes, New African


THE FIRST THREATS TO ATTACK Uganda were made by the Al Qaeda cell leader for East Africa, Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, in September 2008. According to intelligence reports, the militants promised to attack in revenge for Uganda's involvement in peacekeeping in Somalia.

In response to the threats, Uganda's inspector general of police, Major General Kale Kayihura, told a press conference that "there is no place we are not going to reach to make this country secure".

On 11 September 2008, security at Entebbe Airport was tightened. This was, according to Kayihura, a cautionary measure that comes every 11 September, on the anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the USA on that day in 2001.

Reacting to Mohammed's threats, Major Bahoku Bakoru, the spokesman for the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) told journalists: "When they tried to attack us in 1998, what were they revenging for?" The 1998 bomb attacks on the US embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dares Salaam, Tanzania, also targeted the Ugandan capital, Kampala, but this was foiled.

Al Shabaab, the extremist group in Somalia, declared that they were going to close down the Mogadishu airport because, among other things, it was from here that Amisom troops entered Somalia. But Bahoku said threats to attack the airport were "absolutely nothing new".

"I can't remember how many mortar attacks we have been subjected to since we got here in March 2007," he said, but added, cautiously: "Terrorists can do anything. They work in cells and here [in Somalia] it is difficult to monitor them. But we have put measures in place to protect our positions."

Al Shabaab continued to issue threats to Uganda and Burundi through 2009 and 2010. Finally on 11 July 2010, they struck while football-crazy Ugandans watched the World Cup final. Two bombs exploded at Kyadondo Rugby Club, a popular hangout for Kampala's corporate class. Another explosion blasted through a crowded Ethiopian restaurant in Kabalagala, a city suburb that before the attack never went to sleep. The people who a few hours earlier were dancing to Shakira's 'Waka Waka', lay on the ground, 74 dead, many others wounded, shocked or wailing.

Al Shabaab, which is allied to Al Qaeda, claimed responsibility. Mohammed Abdi Godane, the Al Shabaab leader in Somalia, had issued a threat on 5 July, six days before the Kampala attacks. Now accustomed to continuous threats, this too was not taken seriously by the Ugandan security.

Kayihura said they had in fact got intelligence reports that terrorists were planning to attack people watching the World Cup. "Unfortunately, we didn't know where and when the attacks were to be carried out."

The actual mastermind, reports emerged, was Al Qaeda's Mohammed. He is already listed by the FBI as a "wanted terrorist" for bombing the US embassy in Kenya and a hotel in Mombasa in 2002, and a $5m reward is on his head.

After the attacks, the Ugandan police who were clearly caught off guard, sprang into action. Security was tightened at Entebbe Airport and around the capital. A day after the bomb explosions, a suicide vest packed with explosives was found in a bar in Makindye, a city suburb. The gear at this bat was similar to that recovered from the other two sites of the explosions.

The explosives were rudimentary and contained ball bearings and an electric detonator. Security classified the vest as an Improvised Explosive Device (IED), creating suspicion that it could have been made within Uganda. Within days following the blasts, at least 20 people were arrested, five of them Pakistanis.

"We warned Uganda not to deploy troops to Somalia, and they ignored us," Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage, spokesman for Al Shabaab told reporters in Mogadishu. "We warned them to stop massacring our people and they ignored that. We will target them everywhere if Uganda doesn't withdraw from our land." Rage added that "the blasts would continue and it will happen in Bujumbura [capital of Burundi] too. …

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Uganda 'Our Attackers Will Face Justice': Two Terrorist Attacks in the Uganda Capital, Kampala, on 11 July, Have Changed Life in the Country for Good. A Defiant President Yoweri Museveni Says the Terrorists "Have Invited Problems for Themselves. We Shall Look for Them Wherever They Are and Get Them." Agnes Asiimwe Reports from Kampala
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