like Al-Qaeda saw their “innocent” lives as cheap, in a personal challenge to
extremists on the continent after the Uganda bombings.
A US official meanwhile branded Al-Qaeda, linked to the
Somalia-based Shebab group which claimed the attacks, as “racist,” as the United
States cranked up its diplomatic response to increasingly active extremists in
Obama, leveraging his African heritage and popularity on the
continent, took direct aim at Shebab and Al-Qaeda after attacks on crowds in
Kampala glued to the World Cup final on Sunday killed at least 76 people.
Obama said: “What you’ve seen in some of the statements that have
been made by these terrorist organizations is that they do not regard African
life as valuable in and of itself.
“They see it as a potential place where you can carry out
ideological battles that kill innocents without regard to long-term consequences
for their short-term tactical gains.”
A senior American official made clear Obama was taking a direct
swipe at the ideology and motives of Al-Qaeda affiliates on the continent, which
US intelligence agencies say are the extremist group’s most active
The official said on condition of anonymity: “The president
references the fact that both US intelligence and past Al-Qaeda actions make
clear that Al-Qaeda and the groups like (Shebab) that they inspire – do not
value African life.
“In short, Al-Qaeda is a racist organisation that treats black
Africans like cannon fodder and does not value human life.”
US officials drew parallels between the Uganda attacks and the 1998
bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which killed hundreds of
Africans, to suggest Al-Qaeda viewed people on the continent as acceptable
casualties of its wider goals.
Earlier, a separate administration official validated Shebab’s
claims to have carried out the bombing, and expressed fears the group could seek
to carry out attacks outside of Africa.
The official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said that
though the United States had tracked the rebel group and knew about its Al-Qaeda
links, it had no forewarning of the strikes in Kampala.
The official said: “At this point, there are indications that
Shebab was indeed responsible for it and that its claiming responsibility is
The official added that it was known that a number of Americans had
gone to Somalia to link up with the group, which has threatened US interests,
but said law enforcement agencies here were aware of the potential threat.
The official said: “We’re very vigilant for any indication of
individuals from Somalia coming here to the United States to engage in these
types of extremist and terrorist activities.”
But in the wake of the thwarted attack on a US airliner last year
by a young Nigerian man allegedly trained by Al-Qaeda in Yemen, he did warn the
group had now demonstrated it had the capacity, and willingness to look outside
“I’m worried about any organisation, particularly any one that is
associated with Al-Qaeda and has Al-Qaeda elements sprinkled within it, and
their determination as well as potential capability to carry out an attack
outside of the region. There are ways that they can carry out relatively
unsophisticated attacks but still with very lethal results.”
Obama also dwelt in the SABC interview on the cruel timing of the
attacks, saying: “It was so tragic and ironic to see an explosion like this take
place when people in Africa were celebrating and watching the World Cup take
place in South Africa.
Africa that is unified, an Africa that is modernising and creating
opportunities. On the other hand, you’ve got a vision of Al-Qaeda and Shebab
that is about destruction and death.”
Shebab insurgents said the blasts that ripped through a crowded bar
and a restaurant in Kampala on Sunday were retaliation for the presence of
Ugandan troops in Mogadishu.
They were the first ever attack by the Shebab outside Somalia,
marking an unprecedented internationalisation of Somalia’s 20-year-old civil