Al Qaeda-linked Somali group claims Uganda blasts

An al Qaeda-linked Somali militant group claimed responsibility for twin bombings in Uganda that killed 74 people.

Kampala: An al Qaeda-linked Somali militant group claimed responsibility on Monday for twin bombings in Uganda that killed 74 people watching the World Cup final on TV, saying the militants would carry out attacks "against our enemy" wherever they are.

The blasts came two days after a commander with the Somali group, al-Shabab, called for militants to attack sites in Uganda and Burundi, two nations that contribute troops to the African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia.

Al-Shabab, whose ranks are swelled by militant veterans of the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, has long threatened to attack outside of Somalia`s borders, but the bombings late Sunday are the first time the group has done so.

"We will carry out attacks against our enemy wherever they are," said Sheik Ali Mohamud Rage, a militant spokesman in Mogadishu. "No one will deter us from performing our Islamic duty."

Ugandan officials had said earlier that they suspected the Somali group was involved. One of the targets was an Ethiopian restaurant — a nation despised by the al-Shabab militants.

The attacks on two soft targets filled with civilians raised concerns about the capabilities and motives of al-Shabab, which the US State Department has declared a terrorist organization.

A California-based aid group, meanwhile, said one of its American workers was among the dead. Police said Ethiopian, Indian and Congolese nationals were also among those killed and wounded, police said.

At least three of the wounded were in a church group from Pennsylvania who went to an Ethiopian restaurant in Kampala early to get good seats for the game, said Lori Ssebulime, an American who married a Ugandan. Three Ugandans in the group were killed when a blast erupted. One of the wounded was 16-year-old American Emily Kerstetter.

Ugandan government spokesman Fred Opolot said Monday there were indications that two suicide bombers took part in the late Sunday attacks, which left dozens wounded. Opolot said the death toll also had risen to 74.

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.

The attacks appeared to represent a dangerous step forward by al-Shabab, analysts said, and could mean that other East African countries working to support the Somali government will face attacks.

At a wrap-up news briefing Monday in South Africa, FIFA President Sepp Blatter denounced the violence against fans watching the game.

Bureau Report

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