Uganda – Police in Uganda announced On Thursday that they had killed at least five people, including a Muslim cleric, who were suspected of having ties to the extremist organization behind Tuesday’s suicide blasts in the capital. As they attempted to return to Uganda, four men were killed in a gunfight in a frontier village on the western border with Congo. According to police spokesman Fred Enanga, a fifth individual, a preacher named Muhammad Kirevu, was slain in “a violent confrontation” when security personnel invaded his residence outside of Kampala.
He also claimed that a second cleric, Suleiman Nsubuga, is the target of a manhunt, accusing the two of radicalizing young Muslim males and inciting them to join underground cells to carry out deadly assaults. The police operations come after suicide bombers detonated their explosives at two sites in Kampala on Tuesday, killing at least four bystanders. The first incident occurred near the parliament building, while the second occurred near a busy police station. The attacks created turmoil and bewilderment in the city, as well as international outpourings of worry.
Bomb Attacks in Uganda
According to Enanga, a total of 21 people with alleged ties to the offenders have been apprehended. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s explosives, claiming that Ugandans were responsible. The attacks were blamed on the Associated Democratic Forces, or ADF, an extremist group that has been allied with Islamic State since 2019. In a statement, President Yoweri Museveni named the alleged suicide bombers and warned that security forces were “coming for” alleged ADF members. While Ugandan authorities are under pressure to demonstrate that they are in charge of the situation, the deaths of suspects heighten fears of a violent crackdown in which innocent people would be killed.
Despite the horror of the bombings, “it remains vital to guarantee that no terrorist attack is used as a blank pass to violate human rights under the guise of combatting terror,” said Maria Burnett, a rights lawyer with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Terrorism has been used as a pretext in East Africa at times to entrap political opponents, civic actors, and even refugees seeking protection,” she said “Such actions have the potential to radicalize people in favor of nonstarter actors and provide them with a useful propaganda tool.” Human Rights Watch has previously reported situations in which Ugandan security forces allegedly mistreated ADF suspects and detained them for long periods of time without charge.
For years, the ADF has resisted Museveni’s long rule, a U.S. security partner who was the first African leader to send peacekeepers to Somalia to protect the federal government from al-Shabab extremists. In 2010, that organization carried out attacks in Kampala, killing at least 70 people who had gathered in public areas to watch a soccer World Cup game in retaliation for Uganda’s deployment of troops to Somalia. Museveni, 77, who has controlled Uganda for 35 years and was re-elected to a five-year term in January, faces a more severe challenge from the ADF, which has local roots.
Some Ugandan Muslims founded the organization in the early 1990s, claiming that Museveni’s policies had marginalized them. At the time, the rebel organization carried out fatal attacks in Ugandan communities as well as in Kampala, including the killing of 80 students in a town near the Congo border in 1998. After a Ugandan military assault, the rebels were forced to flee to eastern Congo, where several rebel groups are free to roam due to the central government’s poor control.