KAMPALA, Uganda — Bombs exploded at two sites in Uganda’s capital late Sunday as people watched the World Cup final on TV, killing at least 30 people. At least three Americans — part of a church group from Pennsylvania — were among the wounded. Police Chief Kale Kaihura said he believed that Somalia’s most feared militia — al-Shabab, which has pledged loyalty to al-Qaida — could be behind the attacks.
One of the bombs went off at an Ethiopian restaurant in Kampala, Uganda’s capital. Al-Shabab views Ethiopia as an enemy. The second blast went off at a restaurant called the Kyadondo Rugby Club.
Kaihura said 14 people were killed at the restaurant, and that he believed the toll at the Rugby Club was far higher than 14, though he did not have an exact number.
At the scenes of the two blasts chairs were overturned. Blood and pieces of flesh littered the floor.
Among the wounded was Kris Sledge, 18, who said a group of six Americans had been watching the World Cup at the Ethiopian restaurant. Sledge, of Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, had been part of a church group in the country for three weeks. They were supposed to leave Uganda on Tuesday. Three Americans in his group were wounded.
“I remember blacking out, hearing people screaming and running,” Sledge said from the hospital. His right leg was wrapped and he had burns on his face. “I love the place here but I’m wondering why this happened and who did this … At this point we’re just glad to be alive.”
Al-Shabab is Somalia’s most dangerous militant group, one that militant veterans of the Afghan, Pakistan and Iraq conflicts have helped train, according to international officials.
If Kaihura’s early suspicions that al-Shabab was responsible prove true, it would be the first time the group has carried out attacks outside of Somalia.
In Mogadishu, Sheik Yusuf Sheik Issa, an al-Shabab commander, told The Associated Press early Monday that he was happy with the attacks in Uganda. Issa refused to confirm or deny that al-Shabab was responsible for the bombings.
“Uganda is one of our enemies. Whatever makes them cry, makes us happy. May Allah’s anger be upon those who are against us,” Sheik said.
During prayers on Friday, another al-Shabab commander, Sheik Muktar Robow, had called for militants to attack sites in Uganda and Burundi — two nations that contribute troops to the African Union peacekeeping force in Mogadish
In addition to its troops in Mogadishu, Uganda also hosts Somali soldiers trained in U.S. and European backed training programs.
On Sunday, White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said the U.S. was prepared to provide any necessary assistance to the Ugandan government.
“The president is deeply saddened by the loss of life resulting from these deplorable and cowardly attacks, and sends his condolences to the people of Uganda and the loved ones of those who have been killed or injured,” Vietor said.
Kenya’s foreign minister, Moses. M. Wetangula, told The Associated Press last week that enough veteran militants from the Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan conflicts have relocated to Somalia to spark worry inside the international community.
International militants have flocked to Somalia because the country’s government controls only a few square miles of the capital, Mogadishu, leaving most of the rest of the country as lawless territory where insurgents can train and plan attacks unimpeded.
Somali President Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed on Saturday appealed for the international community to do more to help his country fight al-Qaida linked militants. There are currently about 6,000 African Union peacekeepers in the country.
Associated Press reporters Mohamed Olad Hassan in Mogadishu, Somalia, and Jason Straziuso in Nairobi, Kenya, contributed to this report.