Two explosions rocked the Ugandan capital Kampala early Tuesday, killing at least three civilians in what police described as a coordinated attack by extremists.
Three suicide bombers were also killed in the blasts, police said. The explosions caused chaos in Kampala as terrified residents fled the city center.
“Bomb threats are still active, especially from suicide bombers,” said Fred Enanga, a police spokesman, blaming the explosions on the Allied Democratic Forces, an Islamic extremist group.
The two explosions occurred within three minutes of each other. Both were perpetrated by attackers carrying explosives. A possible attack on a third target was thwarted by police, who hunted down and disarmed an alleged suicide bomber, Enanga said.
One explosion occurred near a police station and the other on a street near the parliamentary building, according to police and witnesses. The blast near parliament appeared to hit closer to a building that housed an insurance company and the subsequent fire engulfed cars parked outside. Body parts were seen on the street, and then some lawmakers were seen evacuating the nearby parliamentary building.
At least 33 people were being treated at the city’s main public referral hospital, Enanga said. Five were seriously injured, he said.
People rushed out of the city after the attacks, many on passenger motorcycles, as police cordoned off large areas near the blast scenes, images posted on social media showed.
Ugandan officials have been urging vigilance in the wake of a series of bomb blasts in recent weeks. One person was killed and at least seven others were injured in an explosion at a restaurant in a suburb of Kampala on October 23. Another explosion two days later on a passenger bus killed only the suicide bomber, according to police.
Even before those attacks, the UK government had updated its travel advisory to Uganda to say that it was “highly likely that extremists were attempting to carry out attacks” in the East African country.
The Allied Democratic Forces, an affiliate of the Islamic State in central Africa, claimed responsibility for the attack on the restaurant. Enanga said Tuesday’s attacks carried “the hallmarks” of this group’s work, although there was no immediate claim of responsibility.
At least 150 planned attacks had been defused recently, he said, describing a “national terrorist group” eager to carry out more attacks.
The Allied Democratic Forces have long opposed the government of President Yoweri Museveni, a US security ally who was the first African leader to deploy peacekeepers to Somalia to protect the federal government from the extremist group al-Shabaab. In retaliation for the Ugandan troop deployment in Somalia, the group carried out attacks in 2010 that killed at least 70 people who had gathered in public places in Kampala to watch a soccer World Cup match.
But the Allied Democratic Forces, with their local roots, have become a more pressing challenge for Museveni, who has ruled Uganda for 35 years.
The group was established in the early 1990s by Ugandan Muslims who said they had been marginalized by Museveni’s policies. At the time, the rebel group carried out deadly terrorist attacks in Ugandan villages and the capital, including an attack in 1998 in which 80 students were massacred in a border town near the Congolese border.
Subsequently, a Ugandan military assault forced the rebels into eastern Congo, where many rebel groups can roam freely because the central government has limited control there.
Reports of an alliance between the Allied Democratic Forces and the Islamic State first emerged in 2019, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks the online activities of extremist organizations.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism