KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — Investigators found an unexploded suicide vest with ball bearings in a disco hall in Uganda’s capital, suggesting that militants had planned a third bombing during the World Cup final, officials said Tuesday. Four foreign suspects were arrested in connection with the find.
The discovery of a suicide vest in a suburb of Kampala on Monday was consistent with what was seen at the two blast sites in Kampala, said the inspector general of police, Kale Kaihura. The vest contained ball bearings, as did the bombs that exploded Sunday. Officials believe suicide bombers took part in the twin blasts during the World Cup final.
“What we found here is consistent with what we found on both scenes of crime. And so this is a very significant lead in our investigation,” Kaihura said.
Four people were arrested in connection with the discovery of the unexploded vest, said Edward Ochom, the director of criminal investigations. He said the four were not Ugandan but would not say their nationalities. Kale hinted that Somali nationals could be among those arrested.
Kaihura said a Ugandan militant group — the Allied Democratic Forces — may also have played a role in the attack. Like al-Shabab, the ADF is primarily a Muslim radical group.
The death toll from Sunday’s attack rose to 76, Kaihura said. Officials found a bomb vest, detonator, wires and ball bearings in a bag at the disco similar to a laptop computer bag, he said.
Al-Shabab, Somalia’s most dangerous militant group, claimed responsibility for the attacks. The Islamists are calling for Uganda to withdraw their African Union peacekeeping forces from Somalia.
The claim by al-Shabab, whose fighters are trained by militant veterans of the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, raises the security stakes in East Africa and has broader implications globally. The group in the past has recruited Somali-Americans to carry out suicide bombings in Mogadishu.
Al-Shabab, an ultra-conservative Islamic group that has drawn comparisons to the Taliban, has long threatened to attack outside of Somalia’s borders, but the bombings late Sunday are the first time the group has done so.
“We warned Uganda not to deploy troops to Somalia, they ignored us,” said Sheik Ali Mohamud Rage, al-Shabab’s spokesman. “We warned them to stop massacring our people, and they ignored that. The explosions in Kampala were only a minor message to them. … We will target them everywhere if Uganda does not withdraw from our land.”
Rage said a second country with peacekeeping forces in Mogadishu — Burundi — could soon face attacks. Fighting in Mogadishu between militants and Somali troops or African Union peacekeepers frequently kills civilians.
The militants attacked two sites in Uganda’s capital, one at an Ethiopian restaurant, the other at a rugby club where World Cup fans were watching the tournament’s final at an outdoor screening.