Al Shabaab bombings in Uganda (July 12, 2010)

Al Shabaab killed 74 Ugandans gathered to watch the 2010 World Cup to put pressure on that nation to withdraw its forces serving with AMISOM in Somalia.

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The terrorist group Al Shabaab is most active in Somalia but has struck neighbouring countries as well.

KAMPALA, UGANDA — One of the most common anti-terrorism tools in use, especially in the so-called post 9/11 period, is that of military force. Ever since US President George W. Bush declared a ‘war on terrorism’ we have seen armies and air forces deployed to target terrorist groups. After all, who else do you ask to fight a ‘war’?

So since 9/11, how many military deployments have occurred tied specifically to counter terrorism? I am not sure whether I have a complete list but here goes:

  • US (and NATO/other allies) in Afghanistan;
  • US (and a few allies) in Iraq;
  • Ethiopia in Somalia;
  • African Union in Somalia;
  • France and Central African allies in the Sahel;
  • Saudi Arabia and the UAE in Yemen;
  • Philippines military in the Philippines
  • Indian forces in Kashmir.

I think you get the idea.

Al Shabaab

The problem with this counter terrorism ‘method’ is that it raises as many issues and it purportedly resolves. Troops on the ground often overstay their welcome, mistakenly (?) kill innocent civilians, and provide terrorist groups with ample propaganda opportunities.

As a result, terrorist organisations often target armies – or civilians – to get the nations behind the deployments to leave: remember the Lebanese Hizballah Marine barracks bombing back in 1983? And sometimes it works (but sometimes it doesn’t).

On this day in 2010 the Somali terrorist group Al Shabaab attacked several sports venues in the Ugandan capital of Kampala, killing 74 people and wounding another 70. Many had gathered to watch World Cup football. It was the worst terrorist attack in east Africa since the US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, which brought al-Qaeda into public consciousness for the first time.

I looked up to the sky but there were no lights. Then I turned around and saw people lying on the ground.

We thank the mujahideens that carried out the attack,” Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage, al-Shabaab’s spokesman, told reporters in the Somali capital. “We are sending a message to Uganda and Burundi, if they do not take out their Amisom troops from Somalia, blasts will continue and it will happen in Bujumbura [Burundi’s capital] too.”

This was not the first and will not be the last time terrorists plan attacks to force governments to withdraw their troops engaged in counter-terrorism operations. Stay tuned.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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