Ugandan authorities have killed at least five people, including a Muslim cleric accused of links to the extremist group responsible for Tuesday’s suicide bombings in the capital.
Four people were killed in a shootout in a border town near the western border with Congo, police said on Thursday as they tried to return to Uganda. Police spokesman Fred Enanga said the fifth person, a cleric named Muhammad Kirevu, was killed in a “violent confrontation” when security forces raided his home outside Kampala.
A second cleric, Suleiman Nsubuga, is the subject of a search, he said, accusing the two clerics of radicalizing young Muslim men and encouraging them to join underground cells to carry out violent attacks.
The police raids came after Tuesday’s blasts in which at least four civilians were killed When suicide bombers detonated their explosives At two locations in Kampala. One attack took place near the parliamentary building and the other near the busy police station. The attacks created chaos and confusion in the city as well as a wave of concern from the international community.
Enanga said a total of 21 suspects with alleged links to criminals are in custody.
Islamic State claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s blasts, saying they were carried out by Ugandans. Officials blamed the attacks on the Allied Democratic Forces, or ADF, an extremist group that has been affiliated with IS since 2019.
President Yoweri Museveni identified the alleged suicide bombers in a statement in which he warned that security forces were “coming” for alleged members of the ADF.
While Ugandan authorities are under pressure to show that they are in control of the situation, the killings of suspects raise fears of an action in which innocent people will become victims.
Despite the magnitude of the bombings, “it is important to ensure that no terrorist attack turns into a blank check for human rights violations on the pretext of fighting terror,” said Maria Burnett, rights attorney at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “
“East Side” AfricaTerrorism has sometimes been an excuse to trap political opponents, civilian actors and even security-seeking refugees,” she said. “Such actions run the risk of radicalizing people in support of non-state actors and handing those actors a handy propaganda tool.”
Human Rights Watch has previously documented cases in which Ugandan security allegedly tortured ADF suspects and kept them without trial for long periods.
The ADF has been opposing the long regime of US security ally Museveni for years, who was the first African leader to deploy peacekeepers to Somalia to protect the federal government from the extremist group al-Shabaab.
In retaliation for Uganda’s deployment of troops to Somalia, that group launched attacks At least 70 people died in 2010 Those who had gathered in public places in Kampala to watch the Football World Cup final.
But the ADF, with its local roots, has become a more pressing challenger for 77-year-old Museveni, who has ruled Uganda for 35 years and was re-elected to a five-year term in January.
The group was founded in the early 1990s by some Ugandan Muslims who said they had been sidelined by Museveni’s policies. At the time, the rebel group carried out deadly attacks in villages in Uganda as well as in the capital, including a 1998 attack in which 80 students were massacred in a town near the Congo border.
A Ugandan military offensive later forced the rebels into eastern Congo, where many rebel groups have been able to roam free because the central government has limited control there.