President Yoweri Museveni chairs a cabinet meeting in Kampala, Uganda, Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019. AP
Two bombs exploded in an upscale neighborhood of Uganda’s capital, killing at least 12 people, as President Yoweri Museveni and the country’s security forces vowed to be tougher in fighting Islamic State militants.
The blasts came at about 5:20 p.m. on Wednesday near the National Theatre and other areas of Kampala.
In an immediate reaction, President Yoweri Museveni declared an indefinite period of emergency and deployed more police and security forces.
His press secretary, Ofwono Opondo, said the attackers used a car packed with up to 50 kilograms (110 pounds) of explosives.
Police dismissed fears that there were other attackers and were confident they had swiftly found and stopped the suspects.
The Associated Press saw a charred black car with its windows blown out near the theater.
“So it was a very strategic location,” said Christopher Sayeed, the director of the Institute for Security Studies in Uganda.
Sayeed said extremists targeting Kampala, a city of about 4 million people, were using it as a test-run for attacks throughout Africa.
“Just like in Mogadishu, when you have an attack on high security areas you can test-drive a strategy and devise a plan for how to operate going forward,” Sayeed said.
He said they also targeted foreigners, a decision he said was in part motivated by fears that an American aid agency – the Population Services International – might be transferring HIV and AIDS drugs to refugees there.
The group denies the claim.
“I stand here, bleeding, because this morning in Kampala I received an order, that they come with a vehicle loaded with explosives to attack Kenya and Uganda because we are working with Kenya and Uganda,” Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni said.
“So we felt that it is a clear indicator that they will attack us, so therefore we have decided that we will act forcefully.”
The explosions sent panicked people rushing for cover.
National police spokesman Andrew Felix Kaweesi said early Thursday morning that the death toll was at 11.
Radio stations reported people trying to remove the bodies of victims.
On Thursday morning, police announced they had arrested two suspects in connection with the blast, but many Ugandans and their allies reacted with suspicion that the arrested men were likely innocent victims of the attack.
Uganda has fought Islamic extremist rebels with the Lord’s Resistance Army since the 1990s.
The rebels’ attacks and abductions frequently spread fear and keep tourists away from national parks where they come to see elephants, buffalo and hippos.
Additional reporting by Eric Lusungane in Malabo, Angola.
Read the full story at The Independent.
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