KAMPALA (AFP) – A suicide bomber carried out at least one of the two bomb attacks that killed 76 people as they watched the World Cup final in Kampala restaurants and arrests have been made, a minister said Wednesday.
A Somalian Al-Qaeda inspired group has claimed the attacks and police have already found an unexploded suicide vest at an another site, seen as evidence of a botched plan for a third bomb strike.
|People look for survivors at an Ethiopian-owned restaurant in the Kabalagala area of Kampala. AFP|
One militant blew himself up at an Ethiopian restaurant in Kabalagala, a southern Kampala district, where crowds had gathered to watch the football match on Sunday night.
"We can confirm at least for the case of Kabalagala that it was a suicide bomber," State Minister for Internal Affairs, Matia Kasaija, told AFP.
"We have arrested some suspicious characters. These are people of interest. Some are Ugandans, some are Somalis," he added.
The second attack at the same time was on a crowded bar in the Ugandan capital. The blasts have been claimed by Shebab insurgents in Somalia, who said it was in retaliation for the presence of Ugandan troops in an African Union force in Somalia.
US President Barack Obama said that groups like Al-Qaeda did not care about African lives as he condemned the Kampala attacks.
Obama, leveraging his African heritage, took direct aim at Shebab and Al-Qaeda over the attacks.
"What you?ve seen in some of the statements that have been made by these terrorist organizations is that they do not regard African life as valuable in and of itself," Obama told the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).
"They see it as a potential place where you can carry out ideological battles that kill innocents without regard to long-term consequences for their short-term tactical gains," said the US leader, whose father was Kenyan.
Ugandan police have not given details of the identities of those arrested.
But national police chief Kale Kayihura said Tuesday that a suicide vest -- laden with explosives and fitted with a detonator -- had been found packed in a black laptop bag at a club in Kampala's Makindye district on Monday.
"We have established that what was found at the discotheque was in fact a suicide vest, and it could also be used as an IED" or improvised explosive device, he told reporters.
While the bombers' actions appeared to support the Shebab's claim of responsibility, the police chief pointed a finger at a homegrown Muslim rebel group known as the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).
"Shebab is linked with ADF," he said. "ADF is composed of Ugandans, Shebab and ADF are linked to Al-Qaeda."
Ismael Rukwago, a senior ADF commander based in Democratic Republic of Congo, denied any involvement. "We are not part of this thing, we are absolutely denying. We have no reason, these are innocent people," he told AFP by telephone.
The bombings were the deadliest in East Africa since Al-Qaeda attacks against the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1988.
They were the first by the Shebab outside Somalia, marking an unprecedented internationalisation of Somalia's 20-year-old civil conflict.
Shebab's top leader had warned in an audio message this month that Uganda and Burundi would face retaliation for contributing to an African Union (AU) force supporting the western-backed Somali transitional government.
The Shebab accuse the AU force (AMISOM) of killing civilians during its operations around the tiny perimeter of Mogadishu housing President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed's embattled administration.
The Ugandans were the first to deploy to Somalia in early 2007.
Many of the injured from the Kampala attacks remain in hospital and not all of the bodies have been identified. It is known that a US national and an Irish woman were among the dead.