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Uganda police finds suicide vest, hunts suspects

Uganda's police today were hunting suspects in the World Cup party attacks that killed at least 76, hoping the discovery of an unexploded suicide vest could lead them to a would-be bomber.

world Updated: Jul 13, 2010 15:57 IST

Uganda's police on Tuesday were hunting suspects in the World Cup party attacks that killed at least 76, hoping the discovery of an unexploded suicide vest could lead them to a would-be bomber.

The attacks that ripped through a crowded bar and a restaurant in Kampala on Sunday night were claimed by Somalia's Al Qeada-inspired Shebab insurgents, who described them as retaliation for Uganda's troop deployment in Mogadishu.

Police Chief Kale Kayihura said a suicide vest, laden with explosives and fitted with a detonator, had been found packed in a black laptop bag at a club in Kampala's Makindye district on Monday.

"We have established that what was found at the discotheque was in fact a suicide vest, and it could also be used as an IED (improvised explosive device)," he told reporters.

Kayihura went on to explain that the bomber may have changed his mind before setting off the charge. He added that a number of arrests had been carried out in connection with this particular incident but did not elaborate on the number or identities of those detained.

Kayihura said that the bombers' modus operandi appeared to support the claim laid by the Shebab but he also pointed a finger at a homegrown Muslim rebel group called the Police Chief Kale Kayihura.

"Shebab is linked with ADF. ADF is composed of Ugandans, Shebab and ADF are linked to Al Qaeda," he said.

The bombings, for which he said the death toll had risen to 76 overnight, were the deadliest in East Africa since 1998 Al Qaeda attacks against the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

They were the first ever attack by the Shebab outside Somalia, marking an unprecedented internationalisation of Somalia's 20-year-old civil conflict.

"We are behind the attack because we are at war with them," Ali Mohamoud Rage, the Shebab group's spokesman, told reporters in Mogadishu on Monday.

The movement's top leader had warned in an audio message earlier this month that Uganda and Burundi would face retaliation for contributing to an African Union (AU) force supporting the western-backed Somali transitional government.

The Shebab accuses the African force (AMISOM) of killing civilians during its operations around the tiny perimeter of Mogadishu housing President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed's embattled administration.

"We will continue the attacks if they continue to kill our people," Rage said.

"This was a defensive measure against the Ugandans who came to our country and killed our people. This was retaliation for their actions."

The Ugandans were the first to deploy to Somalia in early 2007.

Medics and officials were still trying to identify 33 bodies late Monday. Most of the identified victims were Ugandans but also included an American national and an Irishwoman.

The attacks, which dampened Africa's party mood following the successful completion of the football World Cup in South Africa, drew a barrage of international condemnation.

The UN Security Council condemned "in the strongest terms the terrorist attacks" and said "perpetrators, organisers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism (must be brought) to justice."

US President Barack Obama "is deeply saddened by the loss of life resulting from these deplorable and cowardly attacks," US National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer said.

The Shebab achieved multiple goals with the bombings: they hit the country providing the backbone of a force which is thwarting their final push for power and they cast a pall on the upcoming AU summit to be hosted by Uganda.

They also struck an Ethiopian restaurant - Ethiopia invaded Somalia in 2006 and is the Shebab's arch-foe - and killed people watching football, an activity they have banned as "un-Islamic" in Somalia.

The leadership of Somalia's embattled transitional federal administration were quick to condemn the attacks and urge the international community to remain steadfast in its support and not yield to pressure to pull troops out.

First Published: Jul 13, 2010 15:53 IST