Uganda bombings toll rises to 70

Suspected Somali Islamists carried out two bomb attacks in the Ugandan capital that killed 70 people watching the World Cup final at a restaurant and a sports club, authorities said on Monday.

Last Updated: Jul 12, 2010, 18:44 PM IST

Kampala: Suspected Somali Islamists carried out two bomb attacks in the Ugandan capital that killed 70 people watching the World Cup final at a restaurant and a sports club, authorities said on Monday.

Suspicion fell on the al Shabaab rebel group, which claims links with al Qaeda, after the severed head of a suspected Somali suicide bomber was found at one of the blast sites.

The explosions ripped through two bars packed with soccer fans watching the final moments of World Cup final in an Ethiopian-themed restaurant and at a gathering in a Kampala rugby club on Sunday.

Al Shabaab militants in Somalia have threatened to attack Uganda for sending peacekeeping troops to the anarchic country to prop up the Western-backed government.

"At one of the scenes, investigators identified a severed head of a Somali national, which we suspect could have been a suicide bomber," said Army spokesman Felix Kulayigye.

"We suspect it`s al Shabaab because they`ve been promising this for long," he said on Monday.

There has been no claim of responsibility for the bombings.

An al Shabaab commander in Mogadishu praised the attacks but admitted he did not know whether they were the work of his group, which is fighting to overthrow the Somali government.

"Uganda is a major infidel country supporting the so-called government of Somalia," said Sheikh Yusuf Isse, an al Shabaab commander in Somalia`s capital Mogadishu.

"We know Uganda is against Islam and so we are very happy at what has happened in Kampala. That is the best news we ever heard," he said.

One American was among those killed and President Barack Obama, condemning what he called deplorable and cowardly attacks, said Washington was ready to help Uganda in hunting down those responsible. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also condemned the attacks on "innocent spectators".

One bombing targeted the Ethiopian Village restaurant, a popular night-spot which was heaving with soccer fans and is frequented by foreign visitors. The second attack struck the Lugogo Rugby Club also showing the match.

Twin coordinated attacks have been a hallmark of al Qaeda and groups linked to Osama bin Laden`s militant network.

"In the city mortuary, I have been informed, there are 70 bodies," James Kakoza, Uganda`s State Minister for Primary Health Care, told journalists:

Police spokeswoman Judith Nabakooba said 10 of the dead were either Ethiopian or Eritrean. The US embassy in Kampala said one American was killed.

The US charity Invisible Children said in a blog posting that one of its members, Nate Henn from Wilmington, Delaware, had been killed in the rugby club blast.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni visited the rugby club.

"This shows you the criminality and terrorism that I have been talking about," he said. "If you want to fight, go and look for soldiers, don`t bomb people watching football."

"This is a cowardly act by al Shabaab terrorists," Bereket Simon, the Ethiopian government`s head of information, said in Addis Ababa.

Ethiopian troops invaded Somalia in 2006 to oust an Islamist movement from Mogadishu. That sparked the Islamist insurgency which still rages.

Bureau Report