KAMPALA (Reuters) - Uganda has arrested five Pakistanis suspected of militant links, police said on Tuesday, two weeks before the second anniversary of a bombing attack in Kampala for which Somali Islamist rebel group al Shaabab claimed responsibility.
Officials say the country is vulnerable to further attacks from al Shabaab who have vowed to keep striking until a Ugandan army contingent, leading an African Union-mandated force protecting Somalia’s government, withdraws.
The area where the five men were arrested was formerly a base for now-dormant Islamist rebel group, Allied Democratic Forces (ADF-NALU), which officials say has links to al Shabaab. Chaos in Somalia has allowed militants to thrive and launch deadly attacks in the region.
Deputy police spokesperson Judith Nabakoba told Reuters the men were detained in the western district of Ntoroko near the Rwenzori mountains on the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on Sunday.
“We got suspicious because these five Pakistanis were coming from Congo and entering Uganda through an ungazetted border point,” Nabakoba said.
She said they were with a Congolese man who was not carrying proper identification documents, and that they had been taken to Kampala for further investigation.
Al Shabaab, which is closely linked to al Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the July 2010 bombing in which 79 people were killed while watching the final of the football world cup.
Although ADF-NALU has long been inactive, officials say they are still a credible security threat from their bases in eastern DRC, where they fled after being defeated and ejected from western Uganda in the late 1990s.
The group, formed in 1996, wants to establish an Islamic state in Uganda and the Ugandan army says ADF’s recruits are predominantly young Muslims.