Shabaab suspected of carrying out bombings in Uganda

Sixty-four people were killed in bombings at two restaurants while watching the World Cup final soccer match in Uganda’s capital of Kampala, raising fears that the al Qaeda-linked, Somalia-based Shabaab carried out the attacks. Al Jazeera has a very good article on the attack and the background, a portion of which is excerpted here:

“These bombs were definitely targeting World Cup crowds,” Kayihura told reporters, adding that Somalia’s al-Shabab rebels, a group which has pledged loyalty to al-Qaeda, could be behind the attacks.

If that proves true, it would be the first time the group has carried out attacks outside of Somalia.

In the Somali capital, Mogadishu, an al-Shabab commander, told The Associated Press early Monday that he was happy with the attacks in Uganda, although he refused to confirm or deny that the group was responsible for the bombings.

“Uganda is one of our enemies. Whatever makes them cry, makes us happy,” Sheik Yusuf Sheik Issa said.

On Friday another al-Shabab commander, Sheik Muktar Robow, called for fighters to attack sites in Uganda and Burundi – two nations that contribute troops to the 6,000-strong African Union peacekeeping force in Mogadishu.

Over the past week, Shabaab has made a steady stream of threats against both Uganda and Burundi for sending troops to back the weak Somali government. On July 5, Sheikh Muktar Abdelrahman Abu Zubeyr, Shabaab’s spiritual leader, released an audiotape that was broadcast on Somali radio stations in which he vowed to attack in the two countries. From Xinhau:

He said that the peoples of Uganda and Burundi will face revenge for their troops’ role in Somalia where they are deployed as peacekeeping forces part of UN authorized AU-backed Mission known as AMISOM.

“You should know that the massacres against the children, women and the elderly of Mogadishu will be revenged against you. Keep in mind that the aggressions being committed by your leaders and soldiers is awaiting you.”

The Islamist group’s leader who has never been seen in public since assuming leadership of the movement in 2008 after the death of the former head, called for Mogadishu residents to wage what he termed an “all-out Jihad campaign.” “We have to carry all-out Jihad campaign against the enemy and everyone should take part both young and old. That is the only way to end the massacres being carried out by the infidels in our country against the weak among us,” said the Al Shabaab Emir in the nine-and-half minute audio tape.

If Shabaab did indeed carry out the two attacks in Uganda, look for Fazl Abdullah Mohammed to have played a role in planning and executing the attacks. More on Fazul here at The Long War Journal:

Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, one of several al Qaeda leaders charged with carrying out the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, was appointed the leader of al Qaeda in the Horn of Africa.

Fazul was “inaugurated” during an open ceremony in the southern city of Kismayo, according to a translation received by The Long War Journal of an article posted Waaga Cusub, a website operated by the Hawiye clan, which supports the Somali insurgency. He “delivered his longest speech delivered his longest speech [sic],” the website reported.

During his speech, Fazul said he was appointed by Osama bin Laden and praised his predecessor, Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, who was killed during a US special operations raid in southern Somalia in mid-September 2009.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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