Questions greet latest bomb scares in crowded Kampala public spaces

Saturday September 09 2023

People extinguish fire on cars caused by a bomb explosion near Parliament building in Kampala, Uganda, on November 16, 2021. PHOTO | AFP


Security agencies in Uganda are facing questions following reports that multiple terrorist attacks were planned in some of Kampala’s most crowded locations. Police officers intercepted, recovered and detonated seven explosives in three separate operations last week and on Monday September 4, signaling foiled plans by terror merchants.

And the police, the Join Anti-terrorism Task Force and Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence have been praising the effectiveness of their intelligence gathering that has put them “a step ahead of the terrorists”, leading to the arrest of a suspect that was allegedly part of the planning, bomb assembling and execution.

“We successfully detonated six bombs. It would have been a terrible situation if the bombs had gone off,” said Brig-Gen Felix Kulayigye, spokesperson of Uganda Peoples Defence Forces.

Read: US cautions citizens visiting Uganda over terror threats

On Sunday September 3 at 11am, the joint police team of counter-terrorism, K9, crime intelligence unit as well as Territorial Police deployed at Miracle Centre church in Kampala intercepted and arrested a terrorist, disguised as a churchgoer.

The teams recovered an improvised explosive device (IED), at the main entrance of the popular church in Kayanja triangle zone, Lubaga parish, police spokesperson Fred Enanga said, adding that another three bombs assembled at a residence in the same division were discovered the next day.


“The suspect Kintu Abdulahuman a 28-year-old, resident of Mbizinya village, in Mpigi district, 36km southwest of Kampala, was also found in possession of a remote-control boom. He was on the wanted list of Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI),” Mr Enanga said.

Homegrown cells

However, Mr Enanga would not reveal how long the CMI had been on Kintu’s trail and in respect of what crimes or which local terrorist cell he belongs to.

The police spokesperson said that upon interrogation, the suspect revealed that six terrorists were behind the plot, which involved bombing other locations in the city, and led the joint team of security operatives and forensics experts to their rented two-roomed house, at Lungujja Zone 8, where three other IEDs were recovered.

Read: Terror funds: Uganda still on grey list

“The bomb experts also detonated the three IEDs and further recovered ingredients of evidential value,” Mr Enanga said, prompting questions about the effectiveness of counter-terrorism police to detect all the threats and defusing the m before they exploded.

Raising doubt

As of September 4, an additional five suspects had been arrested in connection with another IED planted in Mabiito area, in Nateete Central B Zone, Lubaga Division in Kampala, while another explosive was recovered abandoned at a guesthouse in Ngobe-Bunamwanya.

This brings the total number of IEDs, recovered and detonated on September 3 and 4 to six, and the number of suspects arrested and now linked to ADF has increased to six.

On September 2, the police’s counter-terrorism unit and bomb squads had detonated the first bomb at the Old Taxi Park, downtown Kampala, but did not make any arrests.

Tamale Mirundi, a former presidential press secretary, journalist and now political analyst raised doubts: “These bombs that tell security where they are, must be different. None has exploded but they wait to be found and are detonated,” he told the Kampala Journal.

Read: Bomb scare hits Uganda’s Entebbe Expressway

Other commentators argue that there is no real terrorist threat but security using the bombs to curtail opposition leader Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine, who is on a political tour around the country.

Insiders reveal that the threats are real and joint security teams aborted a total of 49 terrorist plots targeting a number of crowded locations inside Uganda. Since the November 2021 twin blasts in the capital, the teams are said to have deployed technology that monitors 11 countries around the region to detect the planning of these attacks.

The incidents this past week prompted President Yoweri Museveni to address the nation on September 7, on the state of country’s security.