Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Surviving the Lugogo bomb blasts

By Mubatsi Asinja Habati
“I cannot believe how I survived. As a manager I am used to moving around monitoring what is happening. It was during one of such movements that my girlfriend spotted me and complained she was having a headache. I moved a few yards away from the noise of the reveling soccer fans to speak to her. Immediately I had walked away, my ears were deafened by a loud bong noise. I fell to the ground. When I raised my head I saw a cloud of smoke. People were unmoved thinking it was an electric transformer exploding. A few seconds later, I heard another loud noise from the explosive. I saw a human head rolling. I could not believe what I was seeing, people were scampering and were bleeding to death” says the manager of the bar who did not want to be named. The manager will live to thank his girlfriend for saving his life that night of the blasts. He had flown into the country three hours ago after a rugby match with their counterparts in Kenya on July 11.
“I heard a loud bang. As I turned, a friend seated next to me screamed “mama” and that was the last I heard from her. She lay in the chair dead. I ran towards the exit jumping bodies but people had crowded the place and everyone was running in different directions for dear life,” says Fredrick Mutabya, who was one of the revelers.
Eyewitness accounts at the Kyadondo Rugby Club bar show that the blasts went off three minutes to the end the Netherlands v Spain match, the final match of the 2010 World Cup which was being relayed on gigantic screen from South Africa. Almost an hour ago, another blast had killed revelers at the Ethiopian Village Restaurant in Kabalagala, a Kampala suburb leaving 13 people, mainly foreign nationals, dead. At least 50 deaths were recorded at Lugogo bypass as the popular hangout was very crowded. The night that was supposed to end in joy for the 2010 World Cup soccer fans suddenly ended in mourning in Kampala as bomb blasts claimed tens of lives leaving others badly injured at the Ethiopian Village Restaurant (Kabalagala) and Kyadondo Rugby Club (Lugogo).
A security guard who was watching the match atop of a lorry wagon in a neighbourhood of the rugby bar was killed instantly. The water tank near the big screen was punctured severally by the explosives. The mood at the night of the blasts was scary and somber. Wailing and whimpering was all I could hear from people who had established their loved ones had just died. People stood in small groups narrating the happy moments they had come to enjoy as football fans that had suddenly been twisted into a lasting sorrowful event. It was such an atmosphere painted by a sorrowful and fearful mood at the Lugogo bypass.
According to witnesses at the rugby club, the blasts hit most people in the middle part of the front seats near the screen. Local artiste Bebe Cool was among the people who had been at the rugby club and had entertained the crowds. He and many others escaped unhurt though tens of others were not all that lucky.
At least 64 people had been confirmed dead and 57 seriously injured as 14 had minor injuries by themed day of July 12. The police could not readily give the nationalities of the victims since some bodies were damaged beyond recognition and hoped to do so after performing DNA tests.
Soon after the blasts the police patrol cars and crying sirens of ambulance tried their best to rescue and evacuate the injured to the various hospitals in town the main one being Mulago and International Hospital Kampala. Bodies were lying in the reveling ground at the Kyadondo Rugby Club bar. At around 2 am in the morning police lorry arrived to carry the dead bodies to the city mortuary.
In the morning of the day that followed the twin bomb blasts, the police were engaged in chasing the vultures from picking parts of the flesh from the human bodies killed by bomb blasts. A section of the Jinja Road at the Lugogo bypass was cordoned off. Vehicles coming from Mukono to Kampala had use the right way of the usually one way of the road. Hundreds of people stood by the road side opposite the Kyadondo Rugby club.
In addition the police were at pains keeping members of the public from accessing the scene of crime in spite of the cordoning off thread the people were eager to enter inside and see the impact of the blasts.
Scattered white chairs others with blood stains were all over the hangout place for mainly members of the Kampala’s middle class just behind the grass thatched bar with inscriptions of club beer.
The Inspector General of Police, Kale Kayihura ordered any body organizing public shows and gatherings at especially at night to work hand in hand with the police to maintain better security. He said the bomb blasts appeared to be well coordinated and targeted towards football fans. He cautioned people to be mindful of their security by avoiding crowded places and reporting strangers in their communities to the authorities since terrorist attacks have been around for sometime and they are serious.
President Yoweri Museveni while visiting the Lugogo bypass scene described the blasts as cowardly acts and sympathized with those had lost their dear ones and those who had been injured. He said his government will not rest until the hunt down those behind the heinous act. “These are the terrorists we have been telling you about. That’s why we go for them because they are very irresponsible, backward, and cowardly. If you want to fight, why don’t look for soldiers and fight them? But we shall look for them and get them wherever they are,” Museveni told journalists.
“They don’t segregate whether it is a child, an adult or a pregnant woman they are killing; we need to concerted effort to fight them,” said Museveni.
The police are said to be involved in intense investigations and have accepted assistance from counterparts in Kenya. The government said the AU summit will go on as planned and this incident would not interfere with the arrangements.
At the Media Centre, its director Fred Oplot said two bodies were suspected to be suicide bombers considering the manner in which they died. Their heads were cut off and other body parts were off the body which is a possibility that these might have wired the bombs around their bodies. But the police chief noted that further investigations into the matter are on going and soon more details will be available. However, other security officers say the blasts could have been time bombs inserted in the reveling places and waiting for the time to go off. But all these leads are subject to investigations.
The bomb blasts come at the time when the Somali Islamic fighters, the Al Shabab had warned that they would attack countries that are imposing the transitional government on the Somalis. The attack on the Ethiopian restaurant in Kampala and the Kyadondo rugby club could be an indicator to the seriousness of the terrorists’ attack that befalls countries that involved in peace restoration efforts in Somalia.

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