News / Africa

Al-Shabab Leader Threatens More Attacks in Uganda

The leader of Somalia's al-Shabab extremist group, which has claimed responsibility for Sunday's twin bombings in Kampala, Uganda, says more attacks will be carried out in the east African nation in retaliation for Uganda's participation in the African Union's peacekeeping mission in Somalia.

In an audio message broadcast on several Mogadishu radio stations, al-Shabab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane, also known as Abu Zubayr, threatened further attacks on Ugandan soil.  

Addressing Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, Godane said the attacks will continue to avenge the deaths of Somalis killed by fire and artillery from AU peacekeepers in the Somali capital.

The al-Shabab leader claims African Union peacekeepers have committed atrocities he says are worse than those committed by Ethiopians and Americans in Somalia.  Godane says the bombings in Kampala - which killed more than 70 people who watching the World Cup final - is "just the beginning."

Uganda was the first African nation to contribute troops to the African Union mission in Somalia, known as AMISOM.  The first contingent arrived in Mogadishu in March 2007 to help stabilize the capital after Ethiopia's military ousted Islamists from power.  

About 6,100 soldiers from Uganda and Burundi are now in Mogadishu, protecting key installations and buildings, including the city's airport, seaport, and Villa Somalia, where senior leaders of the U.N.-backed Transitional Federal Government are housed.  

For three years, al-Shabab has led Islamist insurgents in battles, mostly against AMISOM, for control of the few remaining city blocks under government control.  More than 50 peacekeepers have died and hundreds of civilians have been killed in the crossfire.  International human-rights groups have condemned all warring sides for causing civilian casualties.

Al-Shabab has previously threatened to attack Uganda and Burundi for contributing troops to the African Union mission.  But Western security analysts say what may have motivated the al-Qaida-linked group to make good on its threat was the announcement made earlier this month that 2,000 more peacekeepers would be sent to Somalia.

President Museveni says his country is willing to provide the bulk, if not all, of the reinforcements; and he has also urged African Union members to send as many as 20,000 troops to Somalia as soon as possible.  Security analysts say al-Shabab is hoping that by targeting residents in Kampala, the Ugandan leader will be pressured to withdraw his offer and all Ugandan troops from Somalia.

In a possible sign that al-Shabab operations are becoming increasingly led by al-Qaida-trained foreigners, Godane said the Kampala attacks were carried out by a unit called the "Saleh Nabhan Brigade."  

The terrorist leader thanked the bombers in the unit.  It is named after the Kenyan-born al-Qaida operative who became a senior al-Shabab leader sometime early last year.  Nabhan, who was wanted in connection with the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, was killed in Somalia by U.S. Special Forces in September 2009.   

Al-Shabab has also issued fresh threats against Burundi, warning the group is prepared to target the capital, Bujumbura.

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