Blasts hit World Cup watchers in Uganda, kill 64

2010-07-12 09:50

Kampala, Uganda. – Explosions tore through crowds watching the

World Cup final at a rugby club and an Ethiopian restaurant, killing at least 64

people including one American aid worker.

Police feared an al-Qaida-linked Somali militant group was behind

the attacks.

Ugandan government spokesman Fred Opolot said that there were

indications that two suicide bombers may have taken part in the attacks late

yesterday that left nearly 60 others wounded.

The attack on the rugby club, where crowds sat outside watching a

large-screen TV, left 49 dead, police said. Fifteen others were killed in the

restaurant explosion.

Several Americans from a Pennsylvania church group were wounded in

the restaurant attack including Kris Sledge (18) of Selinsgrove,

Pennsylvania.

“I remember blacking out, hearing people screaming and running,”

Sledge said from the hospital. His right leg was wrapped and he had burns on his

face. “I love the place here but I’m wondering why this happened and who did

this ... At this point we’re just glad to be alive.”

One American was killed, said Joann Lockard, a spokeswoman for the

US Embassy in Kampala.

Kampala’s police chief said he believed Somalia’s most feared

militant group, al-Shabab, could be responsible for the attack. Al-Shabab is

known to have links with al-Qaida, and it counts militant veterans from the

Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan conflicts among its ranks. Simultaneous attacks

are also one of al-Qaida’s hallmarks. The US State Department has designated

al-Shabab a terrorist organisation.

If those suspicions prove true, it would be the first time that

al-Shabab has carried out attacks outside of Somalia.

Invisible Children, a San Diego, California-based aid group that

helps child soldiers, identified the dead American as one of its workers, Nate

Henn, who was killed on the rugby field.

“From traveling the United States without pay advocating for the

freedom of abducted child soldiers in Joseph Kony’s war, to raising thousands of

dollars to put war-affected Ugandan students in school, Nate lived a life that

demanded explanation. He sacrificed his comfort to live in the humble service of

God and of a better world, and his is a life to be emulated,” the group said in

a statement on its website.

Uganda’s government spokesman said the first blast occurred at the

Ethiopian Village restaurant at 10:55 pm. Two more blasts happened at the rugby

field 20 minutes later, he said.

African Union summit

Opolot said the attacks will not affect the African Union summit

being held in Uganda from July 19-27. Many African leaders are expected to

attend.

The explosions came just two days after an al-Shabab commander,

Sheik Muktar Robow, called for militants to attack sites in Uganda and Burundi –

two nations that contribute troops to the African Union peacekeeping force in

Somalia.

A head and legs were found at the rugby club, suggesting a suicide

bomber may have been to blame, an AP reporter at the scene said.

Police Chief Kale Kaihura said he suspected al-Shabab had carried

out the attacks at the club and the Ethiopian restaurant. The group’s fighters,

including two recruited from the Somali communities in the United States, have

carried out multiple suicide bombings in Somalia.

Ethiopia, which fought two wars with Somalia, is a longtime enemy

of al-Shabab and other Somali militants who accuse their neighbour of meddling

in Somali affairs. Ethiopia had troops in Somalia between December 2006 to

January 2009 to back Somalia’s fragile government against the Islamic

insurgency. Ethiopia later withdrew its troops under an intricate peace deal

mediated by the United Nations.

In Mogadishu, Somalia, Sheik Yusuf Sheik Issa, an al-Shabab

commander, told The Associated Press early today that he was happy with the

attacks in Uganda. Issa refused to confirm or deny that al-Shabab was

responsible for the bombings.

“Uganda is one of our enemies. Whatever makes them cry, makes us

happy. May Allah’s anger be upon those who are against us,” Sheik said.

In addition to Uganda’s troops in Mogadishu, Uganda also hosts

Somali soldiers trained in US and European-backed programs.

 

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