Explosion rocks popular tourist neighborhood in Uganda

UGANDA — Authorities said Sunday they were investigating whether there was a terrorist attack in the Ugandan capital after two explosions in an area popular with tourists.

Officials have not specified the type of blast or the casualty figures but crowds in Kampala’s diplomatic district were feared to be the result of indiscriminate violence.

At least three suspects were in custody but there was no word yet on possible masterminds or who set off the blast.

Witnesses said the blast hit on Sunday morning near a popular hotel in the central business district that is popular with expatriates and tourists. The central bank and luxury hotels also lie nearby.

Special forces patrols have been ordered in to keep order in the city of more than 8 million people, Interior Minister Simon Lokodo said.

“Our intelligence from overseas tells us there could be a terrorist attack but we have not concluded that yet,” Lokodo said. “We have to be careful about some of the things that are being passed to us so that we don’t see extremist ideologies.”

Witnesses reported that streets were filled with smoke after the explosion and said they heard a loud blast. Several vehicles were damaged in the explosion and a section of the overhead traffic light in the area was knocked down. The owner of a nearby supermarket said the explosion was so strong he couldn’t make out the driver’s license plate.

“The car exploded and (I) fell on the ground,” said Jama Onyango, who works in the area.

Another witness, Josephine Kulumba, said she saw a “crater” several meters (yards) away from her house in the Wanyanga neighborhood. She said police were blocking the area.

The incident comes after Uganda on Friday failed to renew a 6-year-old state of emergency declared during a similar attack.

Uganda was rocked by suicide bombings in April, blamed on Islamic extremists, that killed at least 75 people in Uganda’s capital. The attacks came two months after a suicide bombing of a Kenyan military base in neighboring Somalia, blamed on Somalia’s al-Shabab group.

Uganda’s military has been battling the militants in Somalia, the terror group’s only known African stronghold. About 10,000 Ugandan troops are in Somalia.

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