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Kenya alert as Terrorists Bomb Kampala

Published on Tuesday 13th July 2010 Kenya alert as Terrorists Bomb Kampala

Kenya was on Monday under heightened security after terrorist bombs killed 74 people in Kampala.

Somali militant group al-Shabaab, on Monday claimed responsibility for Sunday's twin- bomb attacks in the Ugandan capital on Sunday night and slaughtered people watching the World Cup final at a restaurant and a sports club, authorities said.

One bombing targeted the Ethiopian Village restaurant, a popular night spot that was heaving with soccer fans and is frequented by foreigners, while the second one struck the Kyadondo Rugby Club that was also showing the match.

Coordinated attacks are a hallmark of al Qaeda and groups linked to Osama bin Laden's militant network.

The al-Shabaab claims reaffirmed earlier suspicion by the Inspector General of Police, Maj-Gen Kale Kayihura, that the militant group that claims links with al Qaeda was behind the deadly attacks, after the severed head of a suspected suicide bomber was found at one of the blast sites.

Al Shahid, a Somali news agency, quoted a senior member of al-Shabaab saying the blasts were a retaliatory attack on Uganda for sending peace-keepers to Somalia to support the government of President Sheikh Sherif.

"We were watching soccer here and then when there were three minutes to the end of the match, an explosion came ... and it was so loud," a witness, Mr Juma Seiko, said at the rugby club.

The extremist group has threatened Uganda because the country has contributed soldiers to an African Union force supporting the transitional government in the lawless country.

In a BBC interview on Monday evening, the leader of the same group, Mohammed Godane, made definite claim that they had attacked Kampala.

Deputy police spokesman Charles Wahong'o said Kenya, which had beefed up security especially along its border with Somalia, was heightening its vigilance.

Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni on Monday visited the bomb blast scenes under heavy security, offering public support to victims' families and vowing to track down the terrorists.

Official count

Kenya put its hospitals and other medical facilities and personnel at Uganda's disposal should that become necessary.

The two countries are partners with Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi in the East African Community, whose charter requires them to help each other in times of distress.

Public Health director Shanaaz Sharif told the Daily Nation that the country was willing to treat the injured if that became necessary, adding that no request for help had been made.

In Kampala, a Ugandan Government spokesman said: "The latest official count is 74 confirmed dead."

Earlier, officials had said 64 people were killed and as many wounded in the blasts.

President Kibaki joined world leaders, including US President Barack Obama, in condemning the attack.

Al Shabaab happy

"Our thoughts are with relatives and friends of the victims, and at this tragic moment the people of Kenya stand with their brothers and sisters in Uganda," the President said in a statement.

Earlier, BBC online reported the Somali Islamist group al-Shabaab saying it is "very happy" about the attacks. But the al Qaeda-linked group neither confirmed nor denied suspicion that it was behind the explosions.

The deadliest of the blasts was at the crowded rugby club. At both scenes, chairs lay overturned, with blood and pieces of flesh on the floor.

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

An al-Shabaab commander in Mogadishu, Sheikh Yusuf Isse, praised the attacks saying: "Uganda is a major infidel country supporting the so-called government of Somalia... 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."

An American was among those killed, according to the US embassy in Kampala.

President 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".

"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 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.

"This shows you the criminality and terrorism that I have been talking about," President Museveni said at the rugby club. "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, told Reuters in Addis Ababa.

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

Armed police cordoned off both blast sites and searched the areas with sniffer dogs while dazed survivors helped pull the wounded from the blast scene.

Uganda, East Africa's third largest economy, is attracting billions of dollars of foreign investment, especially in its oil sector and government debt markets.

But investors in Uganda and neighbouring Kenya, which shares a largely porous border with Somalia, often cite the threat from Islamic militants as a serious concern.

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