At least three people have been killed and 33 others wounded in twin suicide bombings in Uganda’s capital Kampala, police said, the latest in a string of attacks over the past month.
The attacks took place within three minutes of each other on Tuesday and were carried out by three suicide bombers, police spokesman Fred Enanga told a news conference.
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One of the explosions was on a street near the parliament building and the other near a police station. The explosion near parliament appeared to hit closer to a building housing an insurance company and the subsequent fire engulfed cars parked outside.
Bloodied office workers scrambled for cover over shards of broken glass as a plume of white smoke rose above the central area. Body parts were seen scattered in the street, and later some politicians were seen evacuating the parliamentary building nearby.
A single suicide bomber carried out the blast near the checkpoint at the police station, which killed two people, Enanga said. Then two suicide bombers on motorbikes detonated, killing one other person. A possible attack on a third target was foiled by police who pursued and disarmed a suspected suicide bomber, Enanga said.
Police released security video footage of the precise moments the bombers detonated their devices in the streets, sending clouds of white smoke billowing in the air.
Kyle Spencer, the executive director of Uganda’s Internet Exchange Point, said the explosions had sparked panic among many people nearby.
“The road to parliament is closed off, there are people just crying, everyone else is just trying to get away from these areas,” he told AFP news agency.
“Everybody is evacuating office buildings and the buildings are locking up and not letting anybody inside.”
‘We are coming for them’
Police said they believed a domestic group allied to the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an affiliate of the ISIL (ISIS) group in central Africa, to be behind the attacks. ISIL claimed responsibility late on Tuesday.
Earlier, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said the attacks were carried out by “manipulated and confused” youths who were being hunted down by the security forces in the months since a failed assassination bid on a top government official.
“The terrorists invited us and we are coming for them,” he said on Twitter.
P.J Crowley, the former US Assistant Secretary of State, said ISIL must be regarded as a brand as much as a movement.
“The current state of the extremist movement is that rather than having a central caliphate, which has been defeated in Iraq and Syria, you now have an Islamic state brand that is acquired by local groups,” Crowley said.
“In this instance you have a local group with a grievance towards Uganda that is willing to fly the Islamic State flag.”
Ugandan officials have been urging vigilance in the wake of a series of bomb explosions in recent weeks.
One person was killed and at least seven others wounded in an explosion at a restaurant in a suburb of Kampala on October 23. Another explosion two days later on a passenger bus killed only the suicide bomber, according to police.
Alex Atuhaire, journalist at the Kampala Report, told Al Jazeera the involvement of Ugandan forces in peacekeeping activities in the region “makes Uganda a target for some of these groups”.
“The situation in Kampala is delicate at the moment. The way the attacks have been carried out [suggests] the matter is very, very serious,” Atuhaire said.
ADF claimed responsibility for the restaurant attack last month. The group has long been opposed to the rule of longtime President Museveni, a US security ally who was the first African leader to deploy peacekeepers in Somalia to protect the federal government from the al-Shabab armed group.
Even before those attacks, the British government had updated its Uganda travel advisory to say fighters “are very likely to try to carry out attacks” in the country.