12th July, 2010
Simultaneous 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, officials said.
Police feared an al-Qaeda-linked Somali militant group was behind the attacks. Blood and pieces of flesh littered the floor among overturned chairs at the scenes of the blasts, which went off as people watched the game between Spain and the Netherlands last night. The attack on the rugby club, where crowds sat outside watching a large-screen TV, left 49 dead, police said. 15 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.
â€œI remember blacking out, hearing people screaming and running,â€ Sledge said from the hospital. His right leg was wrapped and he had burns on his face. â€œI love the place here but Iâ€™m wondering why this happened and who did this … At this point weâ€™re just glad to be alive.â€
Joann Lockard, a spokeswoman for the US Embassy in Kampala, confirmed one American was killed.
Kampalaâ€™s police chief said he believed Somaliaâ€™s most feared militant group, al-Shabab, could be responsible for the attack. Al-Shabab is known to have links with al-Qaeda, and it counts militant veterans from the Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan conflicts among its ranks. Simultaneous attacks are also one of al-Qaedaâ€™s hallmarks.
If those suspicions prove true, it would be the first time that al-Shabab has carried out attacks outside of Somalia.
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 attack. The groupâ€™s fighters, including two recruited from the Somali communities in the United States, have carried out multiple suicide bombings in Somalia.
In Mogadishu, Somalia, Sheik Yusuf Sheik Issa, an al-Shabab commander, told The Associated Press early Monday that he was happy with the attacks in Uganda. Issa refused to confirm or deny that al-Shabab was responsible for the bombings.
â€œUganda is one of our enemies. Whatever makes them cry, makes us happy. May Allahâ€™s anger be upon those who are against us,â€ Sheik said.
In addition to Ugandaâ€™s troops in Mogadishu, Uganda also hosts Somali soldiers trained in U.S. and European-backed programs.
White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said the U.S. was prepared to provide any necessary assistance to the Ugandan government.
President Barack Obama was â€œdeeply saddened by the loss of life resulting from these deplorable and cowardly attacks,â€ Vietor said.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joined Obama in offering condolences and added, â€œThe United States stands with Uganda. We have a long-standing, close friendship with the people and government of Uganda and will work with them to bring the perpetrators of this crime to justice.â€
Kenyaâ€™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 countryâ€™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.
Meanwhile, 12 people watching the World Cup final between Holland and Spain on a giant screen in Paris were slightly injured yesterday night by objects thrown at the end of the match, police said.
People outside a cordoned off area at the Trocadero, opposite the Eiffel Tower, where thousands were watching Spainâ€™s World Cup triumph, started jostling before 21h00 GMT.
Fans among thousands more outside the barriers then unexplainably began pelting those inside with bottles, cans and smoke bombs, causing panic.
Police said 12 people were slightly hurt but no arrests were made during the 15-minute incident. More scuffles took place after the match, as the crowds slowly left the area.