Uganda: Security ramped up after bombs


KAMPALA, Uganda — Uganda is increasing security in the wake of the terrorist bombings that killed 74 people Sunday.

President Yoweri Museveni's government is on high alert, especially because it is hosting the African Union summit which is expected to bring dozens of heads of state to Kampala July 25.

"We are on full alert. We have tightened security and screening all persons entering into the country ... Everybody must be vigilant and conscious about their surrounding at all times, especially to identify strange and suspicious people, abandoned items or packages," said police spokesperson Judith Nabakooba.

In an address to the nation, President Museveni angrily vowed, "We shall deal with the authors of this crime. They have exposed themselves; we have got a lot of information on them that we did not have before.

"Those who argue that the best way to avoid trouble is to surrender Africa to terrorists from the Middle East are wrong," he added. "These people have invited a lot of anger from the world, I can assure you they have invited a lot of problem to themselves."

Most of those killed in the bombings are Ugandan but also an American, Ethiopians, Eritreans, a Congolese, an Irish woman, a Kenyan and a Sri Lankan.

One survivor was found after spending 10 hours in a mortuary.

Security has been increased at Uganda’s international airport and at all border entry points, according to police. There are also increased police patrols in Kampala, the capital.

The FBI, British forensics experts and Interpol have arrived in Uganda, following U.S. President Barack Obama’s promise to send help and aid. The FBI has already taken body parts of suspects to begin work on identifying them.

So far, Kampala police have arrested 7 suspects, including a Ugandan man, Ali Issa Sekumba, who was handed over by Kenyan authorities in joint anti-terror efforts by the two east African neighbors.

At a recent press conference, Ugandan police referred to a Ugandan rebel group, Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), which might have been involved or worked with Al Shabaab, the Somali Islamist group that claimed responsibility for the attacks, in orchestrating and carrying out the bombings.

The group denied involvement, though they are reported to have been involved in grenade attacks in Uganda in the 1990s.

Police also warn that key border areas in the West Nile region have been targeted.

West Nile regional police spokesperson, Philip Mukasa, said that leaflets carrying the threats were being circulated in the area.

"We have got some information that Arua and Mbale towns are their next target. Everything begins with rumors, so we can’t take anything for granted."

"Arua is a very strategic town at the border of Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Sudan, which terrorists could take advantage of and exploit the weakness at the porous borders to infiltrate the country," Mukasa said.

“We shall visit markets, places of worship, banks, taxi parks and bus terminals so that our people learn to be alert and help the security to identify suspicious characters and objects.”

In Kisenyi, a Kampala neighborhood that is populated with Somalis, people are discussing the tragedy.  

"If we could lay our hands on such people, we would show them our wrath,” said Abdulayi Roble, a local Somali leader. “We are willing to work with the government and security agents to stop such acts and trace the culprits."

Because tension is high, there have been some xenophobic attacks on people deemed to look like foreigners. There are reports that some people who look like Somalis have been beaten to death by Kampala mobs.

From Mogadishu, Somalia’s Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke condemned the Al Shabaab terrorists.

"Al Shabaab terrorist group who killed children for watching World Cup matches in Mogadishu have taken full responsibility for the carnage in Kampala. The Somali people condemn this cowardly act and send their deepest condolences to the people of Uganda."