Uganda arrests 19 tied to suspected attack plot

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 14, 2014 9:04 AM

By Elias Biryabarema

KAMPALA (Reuters) - Ugandan police have arrested 19 people in connection with a foiled attack in central Kampala that the United States has said was hatched by Somali militants al Shabaab.

Fred Enanga, a spokesman for Ugandan police, declined to provide additional details about the individuals.

"The attack was foiled at a stage where it was imminent," he said.

The discovery of the alleged cell came as Kenya prepares to mark the first anniversary since al Shabaab gunmen killed 67 people in an attack on Nairobi's Westgate shopping mall. The militant Islamists have threatened more attacks since the killing of its leader in a U.S. strike earlier this month.

Ugandan authorities say they have increased security at hotels and other key sites including Entebbe International Airport since making the arrests. They have declined to say if al Shabaab was behind the alleged plot, although the U.S. embassy in Uganda had on Saturday said the cell was run by militant group.

Uganda, as one of the countries that contribute forces to an African Union peacekeeping mission battling al Shabaab in Somalia, has suffered militant attacks in recent years. In 2010, al Shabaab bombed sports bars in Uganda where people were watching the soccer World Cup on television.

The group has been reasserting itself in recent days following the death of leader Ahmed Godane and the appointment of his successor, little-known Ahmad Umar.

Last week, the group targeted two military convoys near the capital Mogadishu and on Saturday the group gunned down a senior Somali national security officer in his car, according to local police and an al Shabaab spokesman.

In comments last Monday, Fuad Mohamed Khalaf Shongole, a senior al Shabaab official, said he would target Americans in New York and Washington, and "capture Kenya and Uganda."

(Writing by Edith Honan; Editing by Michael Urquhart)