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Ugandan arrested in Kenya over bombs

A Ugandan national named Ali Issa Ssenkumba who hails from Butambala in Mpigi district was arrested in Kenya in connection with the bombs that rocked Kampala on the World Cup final night, killing at least 74 people, the Police revealed yesterday. The arrest happened last week, shortly before the bomb attacks, and Ssenkumba has since been transferred to Kampala for interrogation, journalists were told during a press conference at the Media Centre. His arrest brings to six the number of suspects now in Police custody. Police would not divulge any details.
During the same press conference, the Police surgeon, Dr. Moses Byaruhanga revised the number of people who died in the blasts at Kyadondo Rugby Grounds and Ethiopian Restaurant on Sunday from 76 down to 74.  He also told journalists that the two heads of dead men suspected to have carried out the attack are dark skinned. He did not elaborate.
Meanwhile, there was pandemonium at the Constitution Square yesterday following a bomb scare, which was later declared a hoax.
Besides these developments, investigators are still struggling to connect the dots and make sense of the synchronised bomb attacks.
Sources close to the investigation say intelligence officers are having trouble getting a clearer picture as to how this heinous act was pulled off.
The investigators will have to find answers to the many questions. For instance, how was this planned and from where? Were the bombs home-made or were they smuggled into the country? If Al-Shabaab were involved, as they claim, do they have an active cell in the country?
The police on Tuesday rushed to allay some of the public’s worst fears.
The Inspector General, Maj Gen Kale Kayihura, described as significant, the discovery of a possible suicide bomber’s vest in Makindye, together with tens of ball bearings and a black bag.
“Ball bearings at high speed can have the effect of an AK47 bullet,” said Kayihura, who also confirmed that similar ball bearings were discovered at Kyadondo Rugby Club.
Yet even then, the Counter-terrorism Chief, Abasi Byakagaba said it would be premature to tell the nature of the bombs that went off in Kabalagala and Kyadondo. All Byakagaba said is that from the preliminary investigations, it appears the bombers were an organised group.
The bombs exploded at about 11pm during the match between Spain and The Netherlands in South Africa, at a popular Ethiopian restaurant in Kabalagala, and at Kyadondo Rugby Club in Lugogo where hundreds of people had assembled to watch the game. More than 70 people were wounded.
To get to the bottom of the matter, our knowledgeable sources have told us that the police shall need the assistance of countries with more highly developed intelligence networks.
“This is the kind of investigation that can take many months,” our source, a terrorism expert, told us.
The United States, which lost at least one citizen in the Ethiopian restaurant blast, has indicated willingness to give Uganda a hand.
The New York Times, a leading newspaper in the US, this week quoted a US government official Philip J. Crowley as saying that Washington had sent three FBI agents to help with the investigations.  “The United States stands shoulder to shoulder with Uganda in the fight against terrorism,” Crowley, the State Department spokesman, said.  
So far the one thing that appears to be clear is the identity of the people behind the attacks.
Fingers are pointing at Al-Shabaab, which has even claimed responsibility, but the police cannot simply take the group’s claims as true because it could be a cover up, sources told us.
There have been warnings over the last two years from Al-Shabaab, that unless Uganda withdraws its 3,000-strong African Union troops from Somalia, the country would be attacked.
The timing and occasion of the attacks have a familiar ring to it, considering that it is the second time in 12 years that two bombs have gone off in Kampala when people are watching a World Cup final.
On July 12, 1998 when France defeated Brazil in the final, two people died and others were injured when one bomb went off at Slow Boat and another at Isabella Bar in Makindye, Kampala, within minutes of each other.  
The bombs have also sparked off debate as to whether Uganda should pull its troops out of Somalia.
But government ministers, Kabakumba Matsiko and Okello Henry Oryem, insisted this week that Uganda would not pull out of Somalia as that would mean that “we have given in to the demands of the terrorists.”
smwesigye@observer.ug

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