KAMPALA: Ugandan police found a suicide vest at a club in what was apparently intended to be a third target for bombers who struck a bar and a restaurant late Sunday, the police chief said Tuesday.
"We have established that what was found at the discotheque was in fact a suicide vest, and it could also be used as an IED (improvised explosive device)," Kale Kayihura told reporters.
The vest, laden with explosives and fitted with a detonator, was found on Monday, packed in a laptop bag at a club in the southwestern Kampala district of Makindye, he said.
"It’s possible that the person who was supposed to do this was cowardice (sic) because the system was intact," he said.
Kayihura added that several people were arrested in connection with the incident but he refused to elaborate and specify whether the would-be bomber was among those detained.
"There are one or two people who are very suspicious in connection with this and we have made some arrests," he said.
He said that the death toll from the three blasts that went off as crowds of people were watching the World Cup final on Sunday night had risen to 76.
Somalia’s Al-Qaeda-inspired Shebab rebels have claimed responsibility for the bombings, in the region’s worst attacks in 12 years.
The twin bombings in the Ugandan capital dampened Africa’s World Cup euphoria and drew global condemnation. The attacks also marked an unprecedented internationalization of Somalia’s two-decade-old civil war.
"We are behind the attack because we are at war with them," Ali Mohamoud Rage, the Shebab group’s spokesman, told reporters in Mogadishu on Monday.
The movement’s top leader had warned in an audio message earlier this month that Uganda and Burundi would face retaliation for contributing to an African Union force supporting the western-backed Somali transitional government.
Explosions ripped through a sports bar and an Ethiopian restaurant in Kampala where people had gathered to watch the football World Cup final between Spain and the Netherlands.
A US embassy spokeswoman confirmed one American was among the dead and an AFP correspondent saw at least three wounded US citizens at the city’s main Mulago hospital.
Kayihura said an Irish woman was among the dead and two unclaimed bodies were "of interest" to the security services.
Uganda and Burundi provide troops to the African Union mission in Somalia (AMISOM) which is fighting daily battles against the Shebab in Mogadishu in a desperate effort to prop up the government.
The Shebab accuse AMISOM of killing civilians during its operations around the tiny perimeter housing President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed’s embattled administration.
"We will continue the attacks if they continue to kill our people," Rage said. "This was a defensive measure against the Ugandans who came to our country and killed our people. This was retaliation for their actions."
The Ugandans were the first to deploy to Somalia in early 2007 and form the backbone of AMISOM, which is the last rampart preventing the Shebab from claiming complete control of Mogadishu.
Ugandan officials insisted Monday that a July 19-27 African Union summit would go ahead as planned and that troops would not be withdrawn from Mogadishu.
Obama called Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and offered his country’s assistance while Interpol also announced it would send a team to Kampala.