Kampalans stunned by bombs

By Elias Biryabarema

KAMPALA (BestGrowthStock) – Bombs that tore through two bars in Kampala killing 64 people left some residents of the Ugandan capital fearful that east Africa’s third biggest economy could become a regular target for Somali Islamist militants.

Al Qaeda-inspired al Shabaab insurgents had threatened to attack Uganda for sending peacekeeping troops to Somalia. Some Somalis in Kampala went into hiding fearing reprisals.

Crowds gathered at the blast sites — one an Ethiopian restaurant, the other a rugby club — to watch investigators sift through the bloody wreckage for evidence, body parts and DNA traces to identify some of the dead.

“Now we are living in immense fear,” motorcycle-taxi rider Masaba Siraje told Reuters. “When someone you know perishes like that, it sends waves of fear down your spine.”

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks which targeted soccer fans watching the World Cup final, but authorities suspect Islamists from Somalia carried out the bombings.

Uganda has deployed thousands of peacekeeping troops to Somalia alongside troops from Burundi to try to prop up a fragile government that controls little more than a few blocks in the capital Mogadishu. The peacekeepers are regularly involved in firefights with Somali insurgents.

Shaking his head at the carnage, market-worker Israel Kato blamed al Shabaab, the al Qaeda-inspired movement that wants to impose a harsh version of sharia law on Somalia.

“Al Shabaab must be behind this because they see their country in a lot of turmoil and they look at how Kampala is peaceful and they don’t like it,” Kato said, adding: “They want Kampala to be like Mogadishu.”

PEACEKEEPING MISSION

Ugandans, he said, are now paying the price for what he said was a senseless peacekeeping mission in a country that has been mired in violence and awash with weapons for nearly two decades.

“I want our government to pull out our soldiers because they have been dying for nothing and now we are dying too.”

Regional powers recently promised 2,000 extra troops to prop up Somalia’s fragile government, prompting protest marches in al Shabaab held territory across central and southern Somalia.

Up to now the peacekeepers, based in the capital Mogadishu, have been able to do little more than shield the presidential palace from militants and guard the city’s port and airport.

Some Somalis living in Kampala were worried about possible revenge attacks even though the Somali link was not confirmed.

“We are locked in our homes today for fear of possible retaliation by Ugandans,” refugee Bisharo Abdi told Reuters by telephone.

“We are begging Ugandans and their government not to harm us because of the actions of such criminals who even kill their own people in Somalia,” he said.

Kampalans stunned by bombs