Uganda officials say police shot dead five suspects and arrested 21 people Thursday, as part of an investigation into Tuesday’s twin suicide bombings claimed by the Islamic State group.
The explosions that killed four people were the latest in a string of attacks in the East African country, which has since tightened security and mounted an investigation into the bombings, with President Yoweri Museveni vowing to defeat “the terrorists”.
The attacks that occurred in the capital, Kampala, took place within minutes of each other, where two suicide bombers on motorbikes disguised as “boda boda” motorcycle taxi drivers, detonated a device near the country’s parliament, with a third attacker targeting a checkpoint near the central police station.
Ugandan police said the attacks were the work of “domestic terrorists” linked to the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an armed group active in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Washington in March linked the ADF to IS, which in 2019 began to claim some ADF attacks on social media, presenting the group as its regional branch, the Islamic State Central Africa Province, or ISCAP.
On Thursday, Police spokesman Fred Enanga told a press conference, that “counter-terrorism officers in the west of the country had indeed killed “four suspected terrorists in Ntoroko who were crossing back to DRC”.
Enanga added that a fifth man was killed near the capital as he tried to escape arrest; he said that Sheikh Abas Muhamed Kirevu was a local Islamic leader who was “responsible for re-awakening the terror cells in Kampala”.
The police spokesman further said police had arrested 21 suspects as part of their crackdown on the ADF, which Kampala also blames for two attacks last month. According to Enanga, the suspects “were operatives, coordinators, and financiers of terrorism activities,”.
Ugandan Police last month also arrested a number of alleged ADF operatives and warned that extremists were believed to be plotting a new attack on “major installations”.
The ADF, historically a Ugandan rebel group, has been accused of killing thousands of civilians in eastern DRC.
Kristof Titeca, an academic and expert on the group, has been quoted in the past saying that it is “increasingly clear that the ADF is refocusing its attention on Uganda”. Titeca has said that this could be related to “an increased influence of jihadist elements within the ADF in the last couple of years”.
Experts also consider the ADF as the deadliest of more than 120 armed groups that roam eastern DRC, many of them a legacy of two regional wars dated a quarter of a century ago.