Uganda and Burundi have condemned threats made by Somalia’s Islamist Al Shabaab insurgents to strike Kampala and Bujumbura. The threats come in response to a firefight between peacekeepers and insurgents in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, killing at least 30 people.
The violence broke out after Islamists fired on Somali president’s plane as he headed to Kampala for an African Union summit on refugees and internally displaced persons, VOA reports.
Uganda’s president Yoweri Museveni has warned the Islamist rebels that they will pay a heavy price if they carry out their attacks, and Burundi authorities say they take the threats seriously.
Major Bahoku Barigye, the spokesperson for the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia, said the two countries do not take the threat from Al Shabaab lightly.
But, he said, “the threats on Burundi and Uganda and the threats of terrorism elsewhere in the world have existed for some time,” and that there was nothing new in what the Somali insurgents are saying.
Major Barigye added that Uganda’s defense and security institutions have a job to do and hoped they will do it adequately to protect lives and property: “We know [an attack] can be executed as you do not need many people to carry out a terrorist act,” he said.
He expressed confidence that the governments of Uganda and Burundi will take precautionary measures to prevent whatever the Islamic insurgents are planning.
He says it’s too soon to say definitively who was behind the casualties: “The allegations that AMISON shelled and killed innocent civilians are not independently verified.” He added that AMISON was not in Somalia to shell or kill anyone.
“Even the population knows it,” said Major Barigye. “We do not shoot at people; it is the insurgents who want to use such incidents as propaganda, which is the only way they can survive.”
He said it was not clear whether Al Shabaab has the capacity to carry out attacks outside Somalia but added that “it takes [just] one person to carry out a terrorist act. Based on what I see in this country, they [insurgents] are just using human beings who do not understand what’s going on in the world.”
He said “as my commander–in-chief [Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni] has said, ‘we will deal with that situation when it arises.’ Measures will be taken against anyone who puts the lives of people in Uganda at risk.”