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Uganda arrests 36 people believed tied to World Cup bombings

By Godfrey Olukya
Associated Press / October 9, 2010

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KAMPALA, Uganda — If Ugandan police investigators are right, the size of the conspiracy behind the twin bombings during July’s World Cup finals could hardly have been bigger.

Ugandan police — with help from the FBI and Kenyan police — have arrested 36 people from seven countries in connection with the blasts that rocked Uganda’s capital, killing 76 people.

The suspects hail from at least three countries with known terrorist links: Somalia, Yemen, and Pakistan. At least one suspect said he was recruited and trained by Al Qaeda. The Somali militant group that claimed responsibility for the blast, Al Shabab, has known links with the international terrorist group.

Uganda’s director of military intelligence, James Mugira, has said Al Qaeda is at least partly responsible, although authorities believe the planning took place in Somalia.

A day after the blasts, Al Shabab, Somalia’s most powerful militant group, said the bombings were retaliation for Ugandan troops’ participation in the African Union peacekeeping mission in Mogadishu. The militant group promised more attacks.

“Uganda cannot say that what happened on July 11, 2010, cannot happen again,’’ said army spokesman Felix Kulayigye. “It has happened in countries with better technology and better-facilitated security organizations than ours. We can only minimize it but cannot stop it.’’

The suspects in custody have varied backgrounds: businessmen, university students, and leaders of small mosques. Other suspects come from Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda.

“The conspiracy is really very big,’’ said James Okello, a senior police investigator. “It involves many people who also seem to be well funded.’’

Edward Ochom, head of Uganda’s criminal investigations department, said the arrests show that Uganda can successfully hunt down terrorists on its soil.

“It was not by mistake that we arrested those people,’’ Ochom said. “Police have sufficient evidence that all those charged in courts of law with terrorism were somehow involved in the planting of the bombs.’’

Human rights officials, though, say some of the suspects have nothing to do with the bombings and were taken in because they are people of interest to the FBI and Kenyan authorities.

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