KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — Bombs exploded at two sites in Uganda‘s capital late Sunday as people watched the World Cup final on TV, and officials at the scene put the death toll at more than 20 and said it could rise further.
Police Chief Kale Kaihura said he believed that Somalia‘s most feared militia — al-Shabab, which has pledged loyalty to al-Qaeda — could be behind the attacks. One of the bombs went off at an Ethiopian restaurant in Kampala, Uganda’s capital. Al-Shabab views Ethiopia as an enemy. The second blast went off at a restaurant called the Kyadondo Rugby Club.
A police officer at the scene of the blasts said he believed more than 20 people had been killed. He said he could not be named, and Kaihura declined to confirm a death toll. An AP reporter at the two scenes estimated that the toll would be more than 20.
At the scenes of the two blasts chairs were overturned. Blood and pieces of flesh littered the floor.
Al-Shabab is Somalia’s most dangerous militant group, one that militant veterans of the Afghan, Pakistan and Iraq conflicts have helped train, according to international officials.
If Kaihura’s early suspicions that al-Shabab was responsible prove true, it would be the first time the group has carried out attacks outside of Somalia.
In Mogadishu, Sheik Yusuf Sheik Issa, an al-Shabab commander, told The Associated Press early Monday that he was happy with the attacks in Uganda. Issa refused to confirm or deny that al-Shabab was responsible for the bombings.
“Uganda is one of our enemies. Whatever makes them cry, makes us happy. May Allah’s anger be upon those who are against us,” Sheik said.
During prayers on Friday, another al-Shabab commander, Sheik Muktar Robow, had called for militants to attack sites in Uganda and Burundi — two nations that contribute troops to the African Union force in Mogadishu.
In addition to its troops in Mogadishu, Uganda also hosts Somali soldiers trained in U.S. and European backed training programs.
Kenya’s foreign minister, Moses. M. Wetangula, told The Associated Press last week that enough veteran militants from the Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan conflicts have relocated to Somalia to spark worry inside the international community.
International militants have flocked to Somalia because the country’s government controls only a few square miles of the capital, Mogadishu, leaving most of the rest of the country lawless territory where insurgents can train and plan attacks unimpeded.
Somali President Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed on Saturday appealed for the international community to do more to help his country fight al-Qaeda linked militants. There are currently about 6,000 African Union peacekeepers in the country.