Tuesday, July 13, 2010
The Kampala Bombs are indeed a very sad and unfortunate development
It is sad but real that life of more than 70 people could be lost through bombing them on having turned up to watch the finals of the World Cup!
Death toll reaches 74
By Emmanuel Gyezaho, Sheila Naturinda & Gerald Bareebe
Posted Tuesday, July 13 2010 at 00:00
The death toll following Sunday night’s bomb explosions that ripped through a city restaurant and sports club climbed to 74 yesterday, as reports trickled in that the Somali Islamist militia group, al Shabaab had claimed responsibility for the attacks.
The development came as President Museveni declared a week of national mourning for victims of the bomb blasts starting today. A statement from Presidency Minister Beatrice Wabudeya said the President had taken the decision “due to the barbaric and cowardly act”.
Reuters news agency quoted Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage, al Shabaab’s spokesman, telling reporters in Mogadishu: “Al Shabaab was behind the two bomb blast in Uganda.”
A report by the Chinese news agency Xinhua said a senior member of the Somali terrorist group had said the blasts were reprisal attacks against Uganda for sending peacekeepers to Mogadishu under the auspices of the African Union. “We have reached our object,” said the senior al Shabaab militant, who reportedly declined to be named. “We have killed many Christians in the enemy capital (Kampala).”
Three explosive devices were detonated on Sunday at the Ethiopian Village Restaurant in Kabalagala and at the Kyadondo Rugby Club where hundreds of revellers were watching the World Cup final match between Spain and the Netherlands.
Security agencies yesterday made some arrests in connection with the attacks. The police declined to give details, saying the investigations were ongoing. However, a source said one of the suspects was arrested at Oasis Mall in the heart of Kampala.
Primary Health Care Minister James Kakooza told reporters at Mulago Hospital, where friends and relatives of victims of the blasts have pitched camp since Sunday, that at least 70 people had been confirmed dead. But Mr Fred Opolot, the executive director of the Uganda Media Centre, told a media briefing late last evening that a preliminary report put the death toll at 74.
Twenty-eight were Ugandans, 11 Ethiopians/Eritreans, one Irish lady and an Asian. Thirty-three people are still unidentified. “We expect the number to rise because some people were taken to private clinics,” said the minister.
Recounting events in the aftermath of the blast, Mr Kakooza reported that at least 58 people had been admitted at Mulago Hospital “with serious injuries”. “Last night [Sunday] five died on arrival,” he said, “three have since died in intensive care unit.”
The minister said three American nationals who had been admitted at the hospital were transferred yesterday to the International Hospital Kampala “for evacuation to Nairobi.” He also reported that three people were “in critical condition” on life support, while 45 were undergoing surgery after sustaining different injuries including head, chest, abdominal and soft-tissue injury.
“We have ordered the National Medical stores to immediately supply Mulago with x-ray films, canulars and any other medical equipment needed right away,” he said. “Ugandans should be calm because we shall do whatever is possible to save the lives of those still under our care.”
President Museveni visited bed-ridden victims at Mulago and found moment to inspect the bomb blast scenes. All flags on public buildings will fly at half mast today at the start of the weeklong period of national mourning.
Police spokesperson Judith Nabakooba told journalists that of the dead, 15 were killed at the Ethiopian Village and 49 at Lugogo Rugby Club, adding that 10 of the dead were either Ethiopian or Eritrean. She was speaking before the death toll rose to 74.
Ethiopia’s Ambassador to Uganda Terfa Mengesha told Daily Monitor by telephone that preliminary reports had indicated that six Ethiopian nationals had been confirmed dead. “I think the other four were Eritrean,” he said.
Ms Nabakooba said investigations had kicked off in earnest, headed by the Joint Anti-Terrorism Task Force to establish who had masterminded the deadly attacks. Her comments came before reports emerged that the al Shabaab had claimed responsibility.
The reports moved to vindicate government suspicions as told by Mr Fred Opolot, the Media Centre boss, who said the government “suspected this is an act of suicide bombers” and comments by army spokesman Felix Kulayigye who said: “At one of the scenes, investigators identified a severed head of a Somali national, which we suspect could have been a suicide bomber.”
In the recent past, Somali Islamists have threatened to attack Uganda for sending peacekeeping troops to their country to protect the transitional government of President Sheikh Ahmed Sharif.
Museveni mourns victims
President Museveni visits Ethiopian Village Restaurant yesterday. PHOTO BY YUSUF MUZIRANSA
By Rodney Muhumuza, Risdel Kasasira & Sheila Naturinda
Posted Tuesday, July 13 2010 at 00:00
President Museveni yesterday visited the scenes of bomb blasts in Kampala, offering public support to the families of the victims and vowing to track down the terrorists.
Mr Museveni’s comments were tailored to show strength at a time of great distress, and he sometimes invoked his own personal story to inspire fortitude. “I wish to condemn the criminality of these gangs,” he told a crowd outside the Kyadondo Rugby Club, a scene of death and flight after two explosions ripped through revellers watching the World Cup on giant screens.
“From my causal look at the scene, I think the police will be able to reconstruct the events, and possibly go for the authors of this crime.”
Mr Museveni did not say if he had suspects in mind, offering mostly sympathy for the families of the victims. “This shows you the criminality and danger of terrorism,” he said. “People who are watching football should not be targeted…. If you want to fight, why don’t you look for soldiers and fight on?”
Mr Museveni stuck to this message of courage in a time of need throughout his public speeches, first at the Ethiopian Village in Kabalagala, the other place targeted by the terrorists, and then at Mulago Hospital, where he visited the casualty ward and the surgery.
In the casualty ward, when he was asked by some of the patients to strengthen security in the city, he expressed his sympathy and vowed to “arrest” the perpetrators of the attacks. Mr Museveni’s tour of Kampala also led him to Christ the King Church, where he spoke firmly against terrorism in a tribute to Brig.
Nakibus Lakara’s son killed by Karimojong rustlers. “We shall get them and make sure that the law of Moses is applied to them,” Mr Museveni said of the perpetrators of the Kampala attacks. “Why do you attack innocent people?” Mr Museveni’s press office later released a statement that quoted him as saying: “We shall look for them wherever they are and get them.”
Police chief Kale Kayihura told reporters the attacks were definitely the work of terrorists, but that he was not ruling out anything when it came to who could be responsible.
The police said last night that reports of more explosions in the city and reports of a bomb found in a house in Makindye, a city suburb, were false.
WAITING: Relatives wait for the remains of their loved ones at Mulago Hospital yesterday. Below, a family leaves the hospital in tears. PHOTOS BY STEPHEN OTAGE
Desperation and tears at Mulago
By Sheila Naturinda & Gerald Bareebe
Posted Tuesday, July 13 2010 at 00:00
Scores of Ugandans were by 6am yesterday camped at Mulago to receive what could have remained of their loved ones. Weeping women welcomed you at the entrance to Mulago’s casualty ward while Red Cross staff swung into action to help save the dying.
The mood was of uncertainty. Whenever a car pulled into the casualty parking lot, everyone stood to take a look at what it contained. Most stood in small groups whispering to each other, probably speculating about who could have done such a terrible crime. Three white papers with 58 names hung on a pillar, directly opposite the casualty police post’s blue unipot.
Pillar of tears
On them, inscribed in ink, were names of the admitted, their age and where they lived. Two of them, Joan and Emilly Aristater were from Pennsylvania in the USA. People queued to view the names, some left smiling; their people were still alive though in pain.
The majority left the pillar crying out loud, on their way to the mortuary section. Only one person was indicated to have died upon arrival. By midday, as State Minister for Health James Kakooza addressed the press at the ward, five had died upon arrival.
An old woman dressed in a gomesi refused to talk to anyone. She only kept talking about her three children whom she had not seen. The smell of urine and blood filled the 9am air. Nurses, doctors and traffic police manned the gate to the mortuary jealously. No medical person dared talk to the impatient crowd. They were always in a hurry, speaking on mobile phones as the angry relatives hurled insults in their direction. Some people had carried coffins. But by 4pm, none had been used.
For Sam, his friend Denis Ssemanda was surely dead. He and his friends had been at Mulago from 8am and by 4pm, there was no hope of getting Ssemanda’s body. “We have been told to be patient,” Sam desperately said. “All we want is his body so we travel to Mbarara for burial.”
A woman, probably in her late 30s, cried endlessly until security held her tight. She kept murmuring the name Muwanga; he must have been the husband. “In all men here, I do not see Muwanga. God what did I do to you?” she kept asking.
Betty Aliedo was at the mortuary to find her young sister, Jean Vicky Ariakot, after a photo of a woman wearing clothes similar to hers (Ariakot) appeared in Daily Monitor. Ariakot was in her Senior Six vacation. “I can not believe she is gone...” is all she said while clutching at the metallic gates of the mortuary. MPs Joseph Balikudembe and Winifred Kiiza were also at the scene. They had close relatives among the dead and they would wait for the bodies.
A survivor tells his tale
By Richard Wanambwa
Posted Monday, July 12 2010 at 05:48
“We have three minutes left to the end of...,” before the commentator could finish his words, two blasts in quick succession engulfed Kyadondo Rugby Club, which had sat close to 3,000 people watching the World Cup finals.
After the first blast, which occurred slightly on the sidelines of the crowded area, many people ducked under their chairs, some lying down and using the chairs as shelter. Barely a minute later, I heard the second blast, right in the middle of the crowd. It was more ear-piercing and louder.
My neighbour, a young man probably in his early thirties, wearing jeans and a T-shirt, who had been sipping a Guinness beer, had tried to dash to the middle of the pitch after the first blast. The last I saw of him was his body being raised by the second blast before he fell down, still. He was dead.
What had been a football party turned into a sea of chaos. A blanket of smoke hung over the field, with wails and groans being the signature sound.
On my knees, I began crawling towards what I thought was an exit. I saw corpses, many still seated in their chairs—like they were still watching the game. My hands felt human flesh lying on the ground, some of it sticking on my palms as I waded through the mass of humanity. Some of the human flesh kept falling from above, like drops of rainfall, falling on my back.
The shouts of “bomb! bomb!” continued to ring in the air. I lay down for a while and when I saw policemen begin to wave to people to leave, I dashed out, relieved that I was alive but shocked that anyone would bring such a great party to an agonising bloody end.