World Cup Viewing Disrupted By Bomb Attacks

Attacks on soccer fans who were watching the final World Cup match in Kampala, Uganda left more than 70 people dead. Ugandan officials say the bombings may have been the work of suicide bombers, but the investigation continues. Host Michel Martin speaks Max Dulaney, a freelance journalist who is based in Kampala for the latest on the investigation.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MICHEL MARTIN, host:

I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News.

On this day, six months removed from the terrible devastation of the Haiti earthquake, we want to look ahead at the rebuilding effort with two men who have been closely involved from the beginning. A little later in the program we'll have memories of gospel singer and composer Walter Hawkins. Gospel great Vickie Winans joins us for the conversation.

But first, we have to show the sad news of those attacks on soccer fans watching the final World Cup match night in Kampala, Uganda. Those attacks left more than 60 people dead. This morning, a Ugandan government spokesperson said there were indications that two suicide bombers took part in the attacks, but the investigation continues.

At a news conference in Kampala, Judith Nabakooba, spokeswoman for the Ugandan police said the bomb or bombs used could have been timed.

Ms. JUDITH NABAKOOBA (Spokeswoman, Uganda Police): It is too early to say that, to have suspects.

Unidentified Man: (unintelligible)

Ms. NABAKOOBA: Because it could be, it's to say (unintelligible) on a time bomb.

MARTIN: Joining us now to tell us more is Max Dulaney. He's a freelance journalist with the Associated Press and the Christian Science Monitor. And he's in Kampala. Thanks so much for joining us.

Mr. MAX DULANEY (Journalist, Associated Press and Christian Science Monitor): Thank you very much for having me.

MARTIN: Max, the U.S. State Department spokesperson P.J. Crowley said that at least one American has been killed and several other American citizens were injured. Can you tell us any more about that?

Mr. DULANEY: According to the U.S. Embassy in Kampala, one American citizen has been killed, that's correct. No details have been given out, according to the name or profession. And a further six American citizens have also been wounded. Five have been hospitalized and one was just lightly wounded. They were having dinner or had had dinner, what was meant to be one of their farewell dinners, with their friends having spent three-and-a-half weeks on a mission doing missionary work in Uganda. They were visiting an Ethiopian restaurant and then had settled down to watch the World Cup.

That was when at half time a bomb exploded in the cafe they were in, injuring six of them and killing three of their Ugandan friends.

MARTIN: And how many injuries were reported overall, Max? Injuries and deaths overall.

Mr. DULANEY: Injuries, the death toll has continued to rise since last night. It was originally 46, and over the day has come out to 74. I mean, originally 64 and has gone up to 74. The injured is around 60 people.

MARTIN: Now, officials are saying that a militant Islamic group from nearby Somalia might have been behind these bombings. Why do people believe that?

Mr. DULANEY: The link to al-Shabaab is not very surprising, seeing its Uganda has been threatened about several occasions by al-Shabaab, a militant group linked to al-Qaida, as you said. That's because Uganda has the largest peacekeeping it's the largest contributor to the peacekeeping, African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia, which is basically the one bastion between the transitional government and the Islamic militants taking over the entire country.

So, since the beginning of the year, al-Shabaab has, on a numerous occasions, threatened to attack Uganda, threatened to take the fight beyond the borders of Somalia. And it seems possibly, although the police here, they're withholding their opinion on the investigation, it seems possible that this war has come to Uganda.

MARTIN: Why now? Is there any significance to the particular venue, to the timing and to the mode of the attack?

Mr. DULANEY: I mean, as you said, the specific timing during the World Cup match couldn't have been more devastating or more calculated to kill and harm as many people as possible. They attack places without much security, where hundreds or even and up to a thousand fans have gathered at a rugby stadium with a large screen outside.

So from that point of view, the World Cup final was an incredibly symbolic and poignant attack. Actually, Kampala itself, in the middle of this month, they will be hosting a large A.U., African Union summit bringing together all the presidents of most of the African nations to Kampala. So this could be sending out the warning ahead of that. I know the Somali president is meant to be attending, as are most of the meetings, presidents, on the continent.

MARTIN: And, finally, and I understand that you're in the thick of reporting on this, but how are Ugandan officials responding to this? How is the sort of political and civic leadership responding to this event?

Mr. DULANEY: It's difficult to say. There is ultimately efficiency and paralysis. Obviously the attack, although there have been threats, still it's so shocking in its magnitude that it caught everyone, to a degree, unaware.

The Ugandan officials are not overly stating the hand or is laying the blame before the official investigation concludes. It's also dangerous because there is a large Somali community in Kampala, roughly 7,000 people who could become targets for violence should the leaders here sought to blame that community for the attacks.

MARTIN: Max Dulaney is a freelance journalist with the Associated Press and the Christian Science Monitor. He joined us from Kampala. Max, thank you so much for speaking with us.

Mr. DULANEY: Thank you very much.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.