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Terror in Kampala

By Andrew M. Mwenda  

On June 25, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels attacked a Congolese army unit in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). According to intelligence reports, the Congolese army followed them from Wicha in Erengeti to Mwarika, an area controlled by Edward Nyamwisi, a local Congolese warlord.

Edward is an elder brother to former warlord, Mbusa Nyamwisi who used to be supported by Uganda to fight the DRC government.

As the Congolese army pursued ADF, an Islamic terrorist organisation that has been fighting the government of Uganda since 1996, the rebels killed six DRC civilians the next day. So the Congolese army went on an offensive against the ADF. According to intelligence reports, ADF is becoming  localised in DRC as estimates suggest that over 60 percent of its combatants are Congolese.

As the news of the ADF offensive arrived in Kampala, Uganda immediately began preparations to send a brigade of soldiers to its border with DRC. According to army sources, the intention is to create a joint border patrol group to ensure that ADF does not enter Uganda. By end of last week, intelligence reports in Uganda were showing increasing ADF movements towards the Uganda border. Tension was increasing and Uganda’s security focus increasingly shifted to the border with DRC.

However, according to a March 2010 intelligence report, a copy of which The Independent has seen, the Joint Anti-terrorism Taskforce (JATT) had been following a new pattern of activities by ADF in Kampala. The ADF aim was to launch a series of bombings.

‘Recent information indicates a resurgence of ADF activities in the country,’ the report notes, ‘a fact that has prompted JATT operational desk to revisit the ADF call data records for a comparative study with the indicators on the ground. The information provided in this document is authentic and forms a basis for surveillance, monitoring for subsequent arrests and questioning of suspects on their links with ADF.’

According to intelligence sources, the ADF has entered an alliance with the Somali Al Shabaab terrorist organisation. They are now closely linked and plan joint operations. Some of their fighters trained together in Afghanistan and their leaders are all largely drawn from the Salaf sect of Islam. Intelligence sources say they are part of the Al Qaeda. The chief of military intelligence, Brig. James Mugira confirmed that ADF has links to Al Shabaab and how both are working with Al Qaeda.

In an April 21, 2010 intelligence report to the chief of police, Kale Kayihura, ‘a number of the Al- Shabaab in collaboration with the Al- Qaeda has established yet another clique called the Hezbollah. This group is training and has integrated the former ADF, People’s Redemption Army (PRA) and some UPDF veterans, by giving them money into the Al-Qaeda Network. They are basically targeting, western interests in, Kampala, Nairobi, Bujumbura and Johannesburg. For example, on the February 15th 2010 two meetings were held, by the Al- Shabaab in Nakulabye.’

The lead agency in intelligence on possible bombings has been JATT which is under the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI). As early as August 2008, JATT had written a report to President Yoweri Museveni saying that analysis of information obtained from arrested intelligence operatives and their communications (messages) has indicated that they are planning to carry out urban terror operations.

The report said that their targets include; ‘assassination of VIPs, elimination of security personnel targeting JATT operatives and police, resume bomb attacks against the public, intensify recruitment with emphasis on educated people irrespective of religion, establish SPC deployments in and round Kampala. ADF squads are also tasked with acquiring SPC uniforms, sourcing and smuggling arms and other logistics (bullets, grenades, guns/pistols, motor vehicles, motorcycles and others into the country, elimination of security personnel.’

The report quoted an incident of a JATT operative, one Akram Asekajja who was attacked by terrorists and he managed to kill one of the attackers. The report signed by then CMI chief, Leopold Kyanda had also warned that ADF had changed its tactics and was now using foreign telephone numbers to avoid being tracked and even gave details of names, places and telephone numbers of terrorist cells around the country.

However, because the threat of bombings has receded far into history, there has been little focus on terrorism lately. In fact, sources say, JATT has been under- funded for more than three years now and its officers are demoralised. There is a lot of apathy, indifference, low morale, foot dragging and subversive compliance in security organisations across the board. Thus, when intelligence began picking beats of information about planned bombings, the best JATT could do was to establish communication networks between Jamil Mukulu, the head of ADF and the terrorist network.

The Independent has been able to obtain the entire communication network of the rebels complete with names of contacts, telephone numbers and their locations around Kampala and the country. However, in order not to alert the suspects whom intelligence is following, we have decided to withhold the names but the graph on page 14 shows the ‘Current ADF Communication Matrix’ that JATT had developed.

Thus, although by March JATT had established a dozen pages of the matrix of ADF communication, there was little progress of follow-up and arrests. Sources say this is because the organisation has little money for operations and Israel-trained officers are deeply demoralised.

Another problem has been corruption. Because heads of security organisations have been known to appropriate operational funds for themselves, staff officers have also learnt to follow their leaders’ examples. Therefore, even the little money released for operations is diverted by low cadre staff to their personal problems. A top security official told The Independent that this has made jobs like surveillance more difficult.

‘Imagine an operative who earns Shs230,000 per month and has no other benefits,’ the official said, ‘When we give an operative Shs200,000 to follow-up a suspect, the officer first goes to the supermarket to shop for his family. If he spends any of that money on the operation itself, it would be only Shs20,000. But to cover himself he then concocts up a report which does not give an accurate picture of the problem.’

It is in this context that the American Central Intelligence Agency gave their intercepts of ADF communication to Uganda’s security agencies at the end of June. It suggested that there is a planned bombing but could not pinpoint where and exactly when. On their part, Ugandan security suspected that the attack was likely to take place during the African Union heads of state summit due to begin in Kampala on July 17.

A highly placed security source told The Independent that the event of the World Cup final was hardly considered. Besides, the source said, security organisations were bedeviled by infighting and corruption to amount any serious operations to counter the terrorists. Because of this, many operatives go unpaid which has made some of the rebel collaborators double agents seeking to eat from each side.

Some intelligence analysis suspect that rebels may have gotten wind of the leakage of their plans and advance the date of attack from the AU summit to the World Cup final. By doing so, they demonstrated that they have become more tactical.

Indeed some security analysts say that the offensive in Congo was a decoy to distract Uganda security services from the bombing plans in Kampala to a military conflict inside DRC. And it seems to have worked.  Security has been preoccupied with ADF activities inside DRC for the last two weeks, leaving terrorists in Kampala enough freedom to plot and execute their mission.

At Logogo, the terrorists also showed increasing tactical consciousness. For example, the first bomb blast was small. But it was bite meant to lure people to the scene. Then, the second blast was powerful and devastating. It is the one that killed most people. This tactical planning shows that terrorist in Uganda have come of age and can now mount attacks with devastating consequencies.

A top security source told The Independent that ADF has no capacity for suicide missions now. Therefore, this service was outsourced from its ally, the Al Shabaab which had warned of the attack. Al Shabaab, like ADF, is linked to Al Qaeda which has increasingly become a loose association of shadowy terrorist organisations without a central organising body but sharing a common ideology. A top security source told The Independent that last week’s bombings were orchestrated by Al Qaeda itself using Al Shabaab and supported by the existing ADF infrastructure in the country.

Beyond the internal strategy of the terrorist, especially their successful decoy in the DRC, the internal strife and apathy in intelligence organisations contributed greatly to the success of the Kampala bombing. Uganda has something called the Joint intelligence Committee (JIC) which was introduced by Brig. Henry Tumukunde when he was Director General of Internal Security Organisation (ISO). It is supposed to be a collection of ISO, External Security Organisation (ESO), Police and CMI.

JIC is supposed to meet once every week so that security officials from the different agencies share the intelligence information they have on terrorist activities. The aim was to avoid the intelligence failures that became evident in the USA after September 11, 2001. Then, American intelligence organisations were not sharing information; so the different fragments of information could not be pieced together to form a coherent whole.

While JIC was a thinking body, JATT was supposed to be its operational arm. Intel (short for intelligence) that would be discussed in JIC would be brought together under JATT and given operational back-up. However, over the years most security chiefs have relegated JIC to their juniors, who have also lost interest in the meetings. Currently, JATT depends almost entirely on CMI with other intelligence organisations contributing little or nothing.

Because JIC is weak, JATT lacks the variety of information it was supposed to provide. Over the years, intelligence organisations have become increasingly complacent with terrorism. To make matters worse, the evolution of the Rapid Response Unit (RRU) of the Police has knocked out what was left of JATT from its mouth. Because RRU is constantly fighting robbers, it often comes face to face with terrorists too. So although RRU is not meant to fight terrorism, it has better intel on the problem than JATT. And without JIC, the two have no way to interface and share the information.

ISO is the largest intelligence gathering arm of the government. With over 3,000 employees and ‘assets’ (or informers) in almost every place in Uganda ‘ hotels, restaurants, workplaces, newsrooms, etc, ISO should have enough information about planned bombings. However, ISO, like ESO, have become corrupt and incompetent. Their leaders are permanently involved in internal petty squabbles and stealing than gather intelligence information. Operatives are demoralised and most of them now behave like bureaucrats.

There is not only inter-agency rivalry; there is also acute intra agency rivalry in the security organisations. For example, the Inspector General of Police, Kale Kayihura does not talk well with the Coordinator of Intelligence Services, also presidential advisor on security, Gen. David Tinyefuza due to some ‘dialectical wounds’ the later has inflicted on the former. Tinyefuza is not on talking terms with the minister for security Amama Mbabazi.

Meanwhile inside ESO, the Director General, Robert Masolo does not talk to his deputy, Emmy Allio. In fact Allio has not been to his office for a year now accusing Masolo of plotting to kill him. In ISO, the Director General Dr Amos Mukumbi has a silent war against his deputy, Lt. Ronald Balya, whom he has sidelined from any effective decision making body. It is only the Chief of Defence Forces, Gen. Aronda Nyakairima, and the chief of CMI, Brig. James Mugira, who have good working relations with each other and other security organisations. This infighting has made it difficult for coordination of intelligence information, a vital asset in fighting terrorism.

More still, the government mishandled many former ADF combatants who had surrendered and provided intelligence organisations with valuable insights into the workings of the terrorist organisation. The Independent has seen a top security assessment of the dangers this problem was posing to national security but nothing was done.

Intelligence sources say that many of the former ADF rebels got angry and went back to the bush while others became double agents. Security sources claim that information leaked through these double agents to ADF and Al Shabaab that security organisations had gotten wind of their planned bombings during the AU summit. Realising the risk, the terrorists advanced their date of attack to the World Cup final.

President Barrack Obama has sent a team of FBI agents to Kampala to assist in the investigations into the terror bombings. The FBI team is joined by two members of the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security. About eight suspects have so far been arrested in connection with the attacks. They are said to be foreigners from three African countries. But their identities were not readily established by press time.

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