Somali Militants Al-Shabaab Warn of Fresh Terror Attacks Abroad

Published on Monday 8th November 2010

SOMALI militants Al-Shabaab have issued a fresh warning to attack Kampala and Bujumbura if Uganda and Burundi do not immediately withdraw their troops from the capital Mogadishu.

A senior commander, Fuad Shongole, told a gathering in Mogadishu on Thursday that the fresh attacks were intended to "avenge" the recent actions of the Ugandan and Burundian troops in Mogadishu.

The warning is the second since the July 11 twin bombings in Kampala, which killed 79 people as they watched the World Cup final.

A total of 34 suspects have been charged with terrorism, murder and attempted murder in connection with the attacks. Among them are Ugandans, Kenyans, Somalis and one Pakistani.

Asked to react to the fresh warning, Police spokesperson Vincent Ssekate said all District Police Commanders had been ordered to be on the alert. He said businesspeople running public places should undertake preventive measures.

"Ugandans should avoid going to places which are not well protected and report suspicious elements," he cautioned.

The army, on the other hand, downplayed Al-Shabaab's fresh threats. Army spokesperson Lt. Col. Felix Kulayigye said the threats were not new and would not deter Uganda from meeting its obligations in Somalia, but called for public vigilance.

"Our people should remain vigilant to avoid a repeat of the July 11 bombings," the UPDF spokesman added.

The Ugandan and Burundian soldiers are serving under the African Union mission (AMISOM) and are charged with the responsibility of protecting the Somali transitional federal government.

Since 2006, Al-Shabaab has subjected Somalia to a terror campaign of suicide bombings, roadside explosions and assassinations of government officials.

The AMISOM troops, as the peacekeepers are known, have in recent weeks fought fierce battles with the militants and regained control of 10 out of 16 districts of Mogadishu.

Uganda and Burundi have 7,200 peacekeepers in Mogadishu, 800 less than the 8,000 promised by the African Union member states.

However, Uganda has promised to deploy 1,000 more soldiers. Nigeria, Ghana and Tanzania promised troops in 2006, but are yet to deploy them.

The militants claimed responsibility for the July 11 attacks. The bombings were Al-Shabaab's first outside of Somalia and followed many warnings from the Islamists' commanders.

In the first warning on September 7, Fuad Mohammed Khalaf accused President Yoweri Museveni of becoming an obstacle to stability in Somalia and warned him not to send more troops there.

Despite the latest warning, security across Kampala city, including busy shopping centres, was lax by yesterday. The Police presence in the city appeared minimal compared to the days immediately following the July attacks.

At the time, the Police banned commuter taxis from parking in areas around government ministries, foreign embassies, the Electoral Commission, petrol stations and other areas considered vulnerable to terrorist attacks.

However, this is no longer the case. For instance, at the bus stop opposite the Ministry of Internal Affairs, it was business as usual as commuter taxis jammed the area. Shell fuel stations on Jinja and Kampala roads, as well as in Nakawa, were equally jammed with traffic.

Nakasero Market, the nearby Tourist Hotel and Capital Shoppers in Nakasero, Kampala taxi and bus parks did not seem adequately secured. Only a few Traffic Police officers patrolled the streets.

The Police were also absent in the upmarket areas of Kampala such as those around Hotel Equatoria, Speke Hotel, Grand Imperial and Communications House and Barclays Bank.

Even where private guards were on duty, such as at Game Shopping Mall, Nakumatt and Garden City, shoppers were not subjected to thorough checks.

BBQ Lounge and Effendys at Centenary Park on Jinja Road had security checks last night.



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