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Twin Attacks Target World Cup Fans In Uganda, Killing More Than 70


A doctor attends to one of the people injured in one of the Kampala bombings on July 11, when many of the victims were gathered to watch the World Cup final.
Suicide bombers have attacked soccer fans in Uganda who were watching a television broadcast of the World Cup final between Spain and the Netherlands.

At least 74 people were killed and more than 70 injured late on July 11 in what security officials suspect was a double bombing by the Al-Shabaab militia -- a group that has pledged loyalty to Al-Qaeda.

The explosions ripped through the outdoor terrace of an Ethiopian-themed restaurant and a nearby rugby-club gathering in Kampala's popular nightclub district of Kabalagal. Both establishments were crowded with fans in the waning minutes of World Cup action.

Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage, a spokesman for the Somali militant group Al-Shabaab, said the group was responsible for the bombings. Uganda has troops stationed in Somalia as part of an African Union peacekeeping force.

Ugandan Army spokesman Felix Kulaije said investigators found and identified the severed head of a Somali national who is suspected of being one of the two suicide bombers.

The bombings left shocked survivors standing among corpses and scattered chairs. Police spokeswoman Judith Nabakooba earlier confirmed that 15 people were killed at the restaurant and 49 at the Lugogo Rugby Club, before the death toll rose to 74. The figure includes more than 10 foreigners.

"We were watching soccer here and then when it was remaining like three minutes to the end of the match, an explosion came from here -- one-- and it was so loud," said Juma Seiko, who was seated at the terrace of the "Ethiopian Village" restaurant when the first attacker is thought to have detonated his explosives nearby. "I was seated there. And then the second one went off, and [it] just killed almost 50 people there."

Militant Glee

Al-Qaeda-inspired Al-Shabaab militants in Somalia have threatened to attack Uganda for sending peacekeeping troops to Somalia in order to support the Western-backed government there.

Twin coordinated attacks have been a hallmark of attacks by Al-Qaeda and militant groups linked to Osama bin Laden's terrorist network.

Sheikh Yusuf Isee, an Al-Shabaab commander in Somalia's capital Mogadishu, praised the attacks and called Uganda a "major infidel country" and accused the country of being "against Islam" because it also backs the government there. Isee described the July 11 attacks in Uganda as "the best news we have ever heard."

Al-Shabaab has been urging Muslims to join a jihad against more than 6,000 African Union troops that have been deployed in Somalia to support the government there. Regional allies are preparing to send an extra 2,000 peacekeepers to Somalia, bringing the total number of African Union troops there to about 8,100.

On July 10, Somalia's President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed told Reuters he was concerned by the growing number of foreign jihadists joining the ranks of Islamic insurgents in his country and warned that they pose a growing threat to regional security.

International Condemnation

U.S. State Department Spokesman Philip Crowley confirmed that one U.S. citizen, identified as an employee of an NGO in Kampala, was among the dead. A California-based aid group called "Invisible Children," which works against the abduction of children in Uganda for use as child soldiers, said the victim was an employee, Nate Henn, 25, from Wilmington, Delaware.

Five U.S. citizens were also injured in the attack, which Crowley called a "cowardly crime."

"Unfortunately, we see this contrast between the vision and the hope that South Africa inspired through these past weeks, and how that contrasts with the cowardice and destruction espoused by Al-Shabaab, which used the celebration of the World Cup in Kampala to commit cold-blooded murder of innocent civilians," said Crowley.

He added that the United States "stands shoulder to shoulder with Uganda in the fight against terrorism" and praised the African nation for working to achieve regional security.

White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs said U.S. President Barack Obama called Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni today to offer Washington's support.

An FBI team has arrived in Kampala to help to collect evidence.

In a statement, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the bombings "vicious" and expressed hope that the perpetrators will be brought to justice.

compiled from agency reports