Uganda: Death toll rises in terror bombings


KAMPALA, Uganda — At least 74 people have been killed in the terror bombings here Sunday.

Al Shabaab, the Somali ally of Al Qaeda, have claimed responsibility for the deadly explosions, which targetted people watching the World Cup final Sunday night.

The explosions hit two different places where Ugandans, Americans and Europeans had gathered to watch the soccer. The death toll continues to rise.

Al Shabaab said the bombings were in retaliation for Ugandan troops serving as African Union peacekeepers in Somalia. Al Shabaab blames the peacekeeping force, made up mainly of forces from Uganda and Burundi, for keeping the transitional government in power.

One American has been confirmed among the dead in Uganda. Many more people are critically injured, awaiting treatment in Kampala’s hospitals.

Kampala police have so far confirmed 15 dead where the first bomb exploded, Ethiopian Village Restaurant in Kabalagala — a suburb near the American embassy and popular with American and European residents. At least a half dozen Americans were reported to be in the restaurant, watching the World Cup match with Ugandans and others when the bomb went off at about 10:30 p.m. Ugandan time.

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The second and third explosions occurred about 30 minutes later at the Kyadondo Rugby Club during a screening of the World Cup final game. More than 50 people were killed in those explosions, according to police.

Isaac Kuddzu was at the rugby club watching the soccer game on large screens.

“About three minutes before the end of the match I got a phone call, I was sitting in the front row viewing the match. As I moved out of my seat to take the call a blast went off. I was hit in the back and thought that I had been shot, so I hit the ground.

"When I did people started to stand up, thinking it was some electrical explosion. As they stood up the second blast went off and people started running. I got up and started to run, I knew I had to escape for my life,” said Kuddzu, a 28-year-old deejay with a local radio station, Vision Voice - a co-sponsor of the screening at the rugby club. Kuddzu was bruised by a piece of flying schrapnel.

“As we ran, we were jumping over people, but didn’t know at the time that they were dead,” said Kuddzu. Speculation is that nearly 20 were killed at the rugby club but Kuddzu said he thinks it is more than that.

His opinion is supported by gruesome video and photos that are being shown on Ugandan television of severed heads, body parts, bloody bodies at the scene at the popular rugby club.

So far no group has claimed responsibility for the terror attacks.

However, police have not ruled out speculation that Al Shabaab — the Somali rebels with links to Al Qaeda — could be responsible for the attacks. Al Shabaab has warned that it will strike at Uganda because Ugandan troops are a major part of the peacekeeping force in Somalia. Al Shabaab is listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and has been reported to be "Al Qaeda in Somalia."

“We have been suspecting that these people could be planning something like this,” said the Inspector General of Police, Kale Kayihura. Confirming who he meant by “these people,” Kayihura said “Al Shabaab.”

 Al Shabaab commander Sheik Yusuf Sheik Issa, said that he was happy with the attacks in Uganda, but did not confirm Al Shabaab was responsible, according to Associated Press reports from Mogadishu, Somalia.

"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.

During weekly Friday prayers in Somalia two days before the double bombing, another Al Shabaab 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 Mogadishu.

In addition to its troops in Mogadishu, Uganda also hosts Somali soldiers trained in programs backed by the U.S. and the European Union.

White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said the U.S. was prepared to provide any necessary assistance to the Ugandan government.

U.S. President Barack Obama "is deeply saddened by the loss of life resulting from these deplorable and cowardly attacks, and sends his condolences to the people of Uganda and the loved ones of those who have been killed or injured," Vietor said.

Kenya's foreign minister, Moses M. Wetangula, told The Associated Press last week that enough veteran militants from the Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan conflicts have relocated to Somalia to spark worry inside the international community.

International militants have flocked to Somalia because the country's government controls only a few square miles of the capital, Mogadishu, leaving most of the rest of the country as lawless territory where insurgents can train and plan attacks unimpeded.

Editor's note: This dispatch has been updated with the latest death toll and the news that Al Shabaab has claimed responsibility for the bombings.