Uganda in the sights of the terrorists

Fotos on social media from downtown Kampala show gruesome scenes and destruction. On Tuesday, the capital of Uganda was likely to be the target of terrorists again. Local media reported two explosions near the central police station and parliament in the morning when there was a lot of everyday life.

Initially, there was talk of six fatalities, including three suicide bombers. According to the Ministry of Health, at least 24 injured were brought to hospitals, some were seriously injured. A reporter for TV station NTV Uganda said there was “complete confusion”. Human remains can be seen on the streets. Many people fled the city center on motorbikes.

It is the third attack in the East African country within a few weeks. On October 23, there was an explosion in a busy café in Kampala. One person was killed and several people were injured. Two days later there was another explosion in a bus about 30 kilometers west of the capital, in which, according to police, the suicide bomber was killed. The authorities believe that the two attacks were coordinated. The terrorist organization Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), which is said to be linked to the “Islamic State” (IS), claimed responsibility for the attack on the café. At least 50 suspects have since been arrested.

The recent explosions could confirm fears that terrorist organizations are expanding their activities on the African continent. The American embassy had already warned of an increased risk of terrorism in Uganda after the October attacks. Foreigners do not seem to be the target of the attacks, American citizens should still be vigilant. The Ugandan government had also warned of a possible “major attack”. On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken began a trip to Africa that will last until Saturday with visits to Kenya, Nigeria and Senegal.

The organization ADF, which was founded by Muslim rebels in Uganda in the early 1990s, has so far mainly been active in eastern Congo, where state institutions and security forces have little control. Thousands of people there died in attacks over decades, mostly unarmed civilians.

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Security experts and the American government suspect links to the “Islamic State”. There is also speculation about cooperation with al-Qaeda allies, particularly with Al-Shabab in Somalia. Uganda’s government is providing troops to an African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia, which has been going on since 2007, to support the government there in the fight against Al-Shabab. In revenge, Al-Shabab fighters carried out several suicide attacks in Kampala in July 2010, in which 74 viewers of television broadcasts of the football World Cup in South Africa were killed. “We are sending a message to all countries that want to send troops to Somalia,” a spokesman said at the time. It was the first Al-Shabab attack outside Somalia.

Despite its long existence, the ADF remains a rather obscure organization, says Peter Fabricius of the Institute for Security Studies in a recently published report. Many observers believed they were a gang of warlords who pillaged communities in the Congo and raised the ISIS flag as a justification. The latest attacks could be a sign that they are now increasingly striking in Uganda and possibly Rwanda. Rwandan troops fight terrorists in the province of Cabo Delgado in Mozambique.

Three more bombs were found in Kampala on Tuesday, according to the National Emergency Center. Sniffer dogs were in use. The sessions in the Ugandan Parliament ended and MPs left the building. Several office buildings were also closed and the area cordoned off. “While we are all trying to understand the cause of today’s explosions in Kampala, we should all watch out for one another and be extremely vigilant,” wrote opposition leader and musician Bobi Wine on Twitter. “We should stand firm to each other in this difficult time.”

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