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Bomber confessions

By Independent Team

Is Tinyefuza backing  Mugira against Kayihura?

When they were brought in one at a time with their well-trimmed marine-style hair, designer moustaches, and warm jackets and neat T-shirts draped over their fit bodies, they seemed out of place.

They are terrorism suspects and the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI), an organisation not known for operating a luxury hotel, had just plucked them out of its high security cells to parade before the media to confess their role in the July 11 bombings in Kampala that killed 79 people.

First in was Issa Luyima, a former University Librarian, oldest of the quartet, and self-confessed mastermind of the plot. Clad in cream faux-wool jacket and white T-shirt, he faced the cameras with a steady gaze and spoke in an emotionless monotone.

‘I am very sorry for the loss of life,’ he said without a trace of remorse in his voice. ‘I am a peace-loving person but that is the nature of war. It has got many dimensions.’

He said the target of the attacks were Americans, who he blamed for ‘the suffering in the world.’

‘In brief,’ he concluded, ‘I planned the attacks, harboured suicide bombers and kept the gadgets that were used.’

But did Issa Luyima really plan the attacks?

Investigations into the twin attacks in Kampala that targeted crowds watching the July 11 Football World Cup finals at public venues have been fast-paced, spewing new and changing leads almost by the minute. Ugandan security personnel, who are not famous for successful major investigations, have been joined by operatives from neighbouring Kenya, where most of the arrests have been made, and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) of the United States of America.

Barely a month into the investigations, over 80 people are languishing in various jails in relation to the bombing, while many more have been called in for questioning by police and released. Those in jail include the initial typical suspects; Somalis, Pakistanis, and Ethiopians.

Earlier, on July 27, in another high profile show of success by the investigators, three Kenyan men were handed over to Uganda. The men, Idris Magondu, Hussein Hassan Agad, an Islamic preacher, and Mohammed Adan Abdow, three days later became the first suspects in the bombings to be arraigned before a court of law. They were charged with 89 counts including various offences of murder and terrorism.

Before that, on July 19, the Uganda police had shown journalists reconstructed photos of two men believed to be suicide bombers who carried out the bombings. One of the photos purported to show a Somali bomber and another, a Ugandan.

The police boss, Maj. Gen. Kale Kayihura, described the reconstruction of the faces as a

The police have, so far, not explained how the various arrests are connected. Attempts by The Independent to speak to Kayihura failed. Despite the magnitude of the investigations, other sources familiar with intelligence work told The Independent on condition of anonymity that dramatic ‘confessions’ are standard fare during interrogations of suspects.

‘Confessions buy time for the suspects and they use them to avoid being tortured,’ one of the sources said, ‘If you don’t confess quickly, the interrogators damage your body.

Soon after the Kasubi Royal Tombs were burnt, a man calling himself Joseph Musoke confessed to the crime. There were allegations that he was mad but Maj. Gen. Kayihura vouched for his sanity. Nothing has been heard of him since and his ‘confession’ could have been useless.

In the Kampala bombing case, two of the young men barely into their 30s, broke into tears during their confession. Their roles varied but were largely peripheral; they did little errands, went shopping for food, rented lodgings, and hired transport for the bombers.

Only one of them, 30-year old Edrisa Nsubuga who has variously been described as a Bachelor of Commerce Student at Makerere University and student of computer studies at APTECH, confessed to actually being involved in the killing. He claimed to have denoted the device that killed over 50 people at the Kyadondo Rugby Grounds.

The so-called mastermind, Issa Luyima, was in fact, out of the country on the night of the attack. A perfect alibi, if believed.

Public reaction to the high intensity investigations and high profile arrest has been muted out of fear of reprisal. On Aug. 3, Timothy Kalyegira, the publisher of the online newspaper, Uganda Record, was questioned by police accusing him of sedition for an article he ran on his website that questioned the claims by the investigators into the bombings.

However, negative public perception of the investigations has not been helped by the apparent lack of coordination among the various security agencies.

Some commentators in the media continue to hint at motives, including monetary gain, which could be at the heart of wrangling among security bosses pitching divergent claims to the successful post-bombing arrests.

An incident on Aug. 12, when four bombing suspects were paraded appears to have been either a major lack of coordination between the security organisations or an ugly scramble for accolades by the bosses.

That day, Brig. James Mugira, who is the head of CMI, paraded the suspects to journalists saying he had ‘dismantled the network of terrorists’.

Minutes later, the Inspector General of Police, Maj. Gen. Kale Kayihura, called a press conference to denounce Mugira. He was unhappy that the suspects had been paraded to the press while investigations were ongoing.

He said the CMI boss had ‘acted unprofessionally’.

‘That is unprofessional. I don’t want to argue before the press but we shall sort them out later,’ he said, ‘Please I plead with you to just give us one day and (before) you publish those photographs’.

Brig. Mugira had earlier said: ‘We spent sleepless nights and our efforts have yielded good results. We would like to warn anybody whether inside or outside Uganda not to dare attack Ugandans.’

The scramble by security agencies to have their role in the investigations recognised could be related to job security. But it could also be a jostling for position on a docket that has become a priority and is likely to receive more financing, both local and international.

Brig. Mugira is a rank lower than Maj. Gen. Kayihura and the CMI is a directory under the military, similar to the CID in police. Various security agencies would usually be involved in the gathering of evidence and intelligence in cases such as terrorism. However, the police boss, who is charged with compiling files of evidence to be used to try suspects in courts of law, is usually the overall coordinator of the effort.

In this case, however, CMI has done most of the investigations and detention and interrogation of suspects. The police have provided only peripheral professional expertise.  So it appears right for CMI to want to claim some credit.

Still, a source familiar with security operations told The Independent that parading those suspects was ‘out of character for Mugira’.

‘He must have been ordered to do it by somebody senior,’ the source said.

Among the most senior people on the security circuit is Gen. David Tinyefuza.

Early this month, Tinyefuza was involved when Dr Amos Mukumbi became the first casualty of the fallout of July 11 bombings. President Yoweri Museveni removed him from his job as Director General of the Internal Security Organisation (ISO).

Two weeks after the bomb attacks, on July 23, President Museveni held a meeting with Mugira, Mukumbi, Kayihura, and the ESO boss Robert Masolo, Defence minister Crispus Kiyonga, and Chief of Defence Forces Aronda Nyakairima to appraise their responsibility in the attacks.

The President was reportedly unhappy that ISO had failed to detect and stop the bomb plotters.

However, according to sources in security circles who requested anonymity, Mukumbi’s removal was part of a bigger fight for clout between the powerful Minister for Security, Amama Mbabazi, and the once-powerful Gen. Tinyefuza, who is trying to assert his role as Coordinator of Intelligence Services.

Mbabazi had backed Mukumbi’s appointment in 2005 and was opposed to his sacking. Tinyefuza supported the removal and Mukumbi’s replacement, Lt. Ronnie Balya.

According to media reports, Mbabazi and Tinyefuza on Aug.10 witnessed Mukumbi’s handing over to Balya in a tightly guarded event.

it is internal squabbles such as these within the security forces that have been blamed for lapses in intelligence gathering, which have been exploited by criminals.

As earlier reported by The Independent (see ‘Kampala Bombing’ Issue 120), after the July 11 bombings, the heads of security organisations concluded that the failure to share information between their various organisations through the Joint Intelligence Committee benefited the attackers.

In one case, it was noted that ESO had been warned by both USA and South Africa about an impending attack but had not shared this information with ISO.

In another case, the Joint Ant-Terrorism Taskforce (JAT) had acquired information on the location and telephone numbers of terrorists, which showed increased activity and the Rapid Response Unit (RRU) of the police, had picked information on the plans by terrorists to bomb Kampala. But RRU did not have good intelligence on their location. If JAT and RRU had shared information, they could have averted the attacks.

This time, however, the jostling among the security forces bosses could be about different money, especially America money.

After September 11 terror attacks on the US, successive American governments have paid increasing attention to African issues in a bid to stop it from becoming a breeding ground for terrorists.

So two days after the July 11 attacks in Kampala, US President Barack Obama promised to support Uganda and President Museveni in the fight against the terrorists. One American was killed in the attacks and the FBI immediately got involved. Such offers of support by the US usually translate into money.

When the US deployed troops under the Combined Joint Task Force€“Horn of Africa in 2003, it gave it a starting budget of US$100 million. More has funded Africa Command (AFRICOM) since 2007.

Most of this money goes into intelligence gathering, border security, and policing. The aim is to identify and block the movement of personnel, arms, money, and other forms of support for terrorists.

After the Islamic Court Movement took power in Mogadishu, the US supported Ethiopia’s 2006 invasion of Somalia.

It placed US$ 40 million on the table for whoever supported the Ethiopian adventure with boots on the ground. Uganda took up the offer, deploying 1,400 men in Somalia in the first phase.

As a result of this cooperation, in December 2008, the US provided intelligence for Uganda’s botched ‘Operation Lightning Thunder’ in the Democratic Republic of Congo against the rebels of Joseph Kony who is considered a terrorist.

According to the Security ministry’s planning documents, the lack of adequate resources has led to inadequate human resource and equipment capacity and low pay for intelligence staff.

According to the sector budgets for the 2010/11 financial year, Internal Security, which is under President’s Office, was allocated a paltry Shs 21 billion compared to Shs 442 billion for the army, UPDF, and Shs14 billion for the Security Ministry managers. The External Security Organisation (ESO) got only Shs 9 billion.

Even then, sources with knowledge of the inner working of intelligence bodies say they are riddled with corruption and even the little money available to fund operations is routinely used by intelligence bosses to enrich themselves leaving operatives in the field without resources to do the work.

A major puzzle in the ongoing investigations is why none of he confessors has mentioned the rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). Two of the self-confessed bomb plotters, Issa Luyima and Mohamoud Mugisha, claim they trained with al Shabaab and did combat duty on its behalf against Ugandan army troops in Somalia.

According to sources, a major objective is to establish the alleged link between the bomber and the Somalia Islamist militia, al Shabaab, on one hand and the Ugandan rebel group based in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the ADF.

In fact, the sources say, CMI is holding a ‘high value’ Congolese.

As earlier reported by The Independent, just before the July 11 attacks, on July 4, Gen. Nyakairima received a threat assessment from CMI detailing a serious threat from ADF terrorists working in conjunction with the al-Shabaab.

Nyakairima reportedly alerted all army units and copied President Museveni, cabinet ministers, intelligence organisations and the police.

By July 5, CMI and UPDF were reinforcing its defences at its head offices at Kitante Courts and Bombo and Mbuya respectively.

All security installations around Kampala and greater Kampala also got increased security.

At the same time, there were reports of massive recruitment by ADF. The reports also indicated that ADF was transporting most of its recruits to DR Congo through Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda before crossing to Goma.

However, so far, no link with ADF has been made.

The involvement of both suicide bombers and remote controlled detonator bombs has also raised queries. Security sources with knowledge of such operations say suicide bombers or ‘martyrs’ as they are called usually deploy in situation where access is very difficult. In such cases, the bomber becomes the bomb.

However, both the Kyadondo Rugby Grounds and the Ethiopian Restaurant were targeted because of the ease of entry. What then was the purpose of the suicide bombers?

Yet security information has consistently shown the involvement of suicide bombers at both venues.

According to police, the existence of a severed head is often a sign of suicide bombing as the suicide jacket tends to destroy the middle body leaving only the head and limbs.

Secondly, police sources say that the severed head at Lugogo was of a Somali while the one in Kabalagala was of a Ugandan. According to security sources ADF does not have a prior record in suicide bombing.

The only explanation is that ADF and Al Shabaab are working jointly.

A security source told The Independent that the Kampala bombers were of relatively low rank and had no way of ascertaining which group they were working for.

‘How can al-Shabaab which is hunted by major security organisations entrust such a job with people who joined a few moths earlier in 2009,’ the source asked, ‘Is it so desperate for fighters. If it operated like that it would have been wiped out.’ That question should send chills down the spine of anybody. If Issa Luyima, the remorseless, self-confessed mastermind of attack who was paraded by CMI to the press is just a lowly cadre, who and where are his masters and what are they planning?

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