Uganda bombings kill 64, Islamists suspected

KAMPALA, (Reuters) – Suspected Somali Islamists  carried out two bomb attacks in the Ugandan capital that killed  at least 64 people as they watched the World Cup final at a  restaurant and a sports club, authorities said today.
Suspicion fell on the al Shabaab rebel group, which claims  links with al Qaeda, after the severed head of a suspected  Somali suicide bomber was found at one of the blast sites.
The explosions ripped through two bars packed with soccer  fans watching the final moments of World Cup final in an  Ethiopian-themed restaurant and at a gathering in a Kampala  rugby club yesterday.
Al Shabaab militants in Somalia have threatened to attack  Uganda for sending peacekeeping troops to the anarchic country  to prop up the Western-backed government.
“At one of the scenes, investigators identified a severed  head of a Somali national, which we suspect could have been a  suicide bomber,” said army spokesman Felix Kulayigye.
“We suspect it’s al Shabaab because they’ve been promising  this for long,” he said today.
There has been no claim of responsibility for the bombings.
An al Shabaab commander in Mogadishu praised the attacks but  admitted he did not know whether they were the work of his  group, which is fighting to overthrow the Somali government.
“Uganda is a major infidel country supporting the so-called  government of Somalia,” said Sheikh Yusuf Isse, an al Shabaab  commander in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu.
“We know Uganda is against Islam and so we are very happy at  what has happened in Kampala. That is the best news we ever  heard,” he said.
One American was among those killed and President Barack  Obama, condemning what he called deplorable and cowardly  attacks, said Washington was ready to help Uganda in hunting  down those responsible.
One bombing targeted the Ethiopian Village restaurant, a  popular night-spot which was heaving with soccer fans and is  frequented by foreign visitors. The second attack struck a rugby  club also showing the match.
Twin coordinated attacks have been a hallmark of al Qaeda  and groups linked to Osama bin Laden’s militant network.
“Sixty-four are confirmed dead. Fifteen people at the  Ethiopian Village and 49 at Lugogo Rugby Club. Seventy-one  people are injured,” said police spokeswoman Judith Nabakooba.
She said 10 of the dead were either Ethiopian or Eritrean.  The U.S. embassy in Kampala said one American was killed.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni visited the rugby club.
“This shows you the criminality and terrorism that I have  been talking about,” he said. “If you want to fight, go and look  for soldiers, don’t bomb people watching football.”
“This is a cowardly act by al Shabaab terrorists,” Bereket  Simon, the Ethiopian government’s head of information, told  Reuters in Addis Ababa.
Ethiopian troops invaded Somalia in 2006 to oust an Islamist  movement from Mogadishu. That sparked the Islamist insurgency  which still rages.
The blasts come in the closing moments of the final between  Spain and the Netherlands and left shocked survivors reeling  among corpses and scattered chairs.
“We were watching soccer here and then when there were three  minutes to the end of the match an explosion came … and it was  so loud,” witness Juma Seiko said at the rugby club.
Heavily armed police cordoned off both blast sites and  searched the areas with sniffer dogs while dazed survivors  helped pull the wounded from the wreckage.

Uganda, east Africa’s third largest economy, is attracting  billions of dollars of foreign investment, especially in its oil  sector and government debt markets.
But investors in Uganda and neighbouring Kenya, which shares  a largely porous border with Somalia, often cite the threat from  Islamic militants as a serious concern.
“I certainly think the blasts will make risk appraisals  tighter on Uganda. If it does transpire to be al Shabaab that  will certainly raise the concerns of Western investors and also  Chinese investors in Uganda,” said Alex Vines, Head of Africa  Programmes at London’s Chatham House think-tank.
In Kampala, Somali residents voiced fears of a backlash.
“We are in fear and locked in our homes today for fear of  Ugandans’ possible retaliation,” Bisharo Abdi, a Somali refugee,  told Reuters. “Some Ugandans are saying ‘kill Somalis’.”
In Washington, U.S. National Security Council spokesman Mike  Hammer said Obama was “deeply saddened by the loss of life  resulting from these deplorable and cowardly attacks”.
“The United States is ready to provide any assistance  requested by the Ugandan government,” said Hammer.
On Saturday, Somali President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed told  Reuters the growing number of foreign jihadists joining the  Islamic insurgents posed a threat to regional security.
“The fact that the victims were enjoying the World Cup final  reveals the evil and ugly nature of the perpetrators and the  need to uproot from the region those who do not value the  sanctity of human life,” Sharif said today.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague condemned the  “cowardly attacks during an event that was widely seen as a  celebration of African unity”.

Around the Web