JOHANNESBURG – A former university librarian on Thursday said he wanted to kill as many Americans as possible in bomb attacks that killed 76 people in the Ugandan capital last month.
In a public confession at a news conference in Kampala arranged by Ugandan military intelligence, Issa Ahmed Luyima said he planned the July 11 attacks and roped his younger brother and others into the plot.
His motive was a deep hatred of Americans, the 33-year-old Ugandan said.
“My rage was with the Americans whom I deemed responsible for all the suffering of Muslims around the world,” he was quoted as saying by news agency reports. “I targeted places where many Americans go.”
One American died in the bomb blasts in Kampala at a rugby club and an Ethiopian restaurant, locations where people had gathered to watch the soccer World Cup final.
Another attack had been planned at a dance hall but wasn’t carried out.
The four suspects at the news conference all confessed to involvement and said they were sorry for what they had done. One of them wept.
“We have apprehended all those responsible for the planning and execution of these cowardly attacks,” said the head of military intelligence, James Mugira, according to the news agencies.
Earlier, police chief Kale Kayihura told journalists that 22 people had been arrested for alleged involvement in the bombings. Late last month, three Kenyans appeared in a Ugandan court charged with multiple counts of murder over the attacks.
Haruna Luyima, the ringleader’s 27-year-old brother, said at the news conference that his role was to carry out the planned dance hall attack.
“But when I reached there I wondered why so many people watching football on television should be killed over nothing,” the younger Luyima said. He said he dumped a bag with the bomb in a flower bed and fled the scene.
Police have since said the abandoned bomb and a cell phone helped them trace the terrorists.
The older Luyima said he had joined al-Shabab, the Somali rebel group linked to al-Qaida, last year and had fought with the militants alongside other foreign fighters.
Al-Shabab last month claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying they were in revenge for Uganda’s role in the African Union peacekeeping force backing Somalia’s fragile government.
It was the first time the group managed to mount an attack outside Somalia.
Western governments have been alarmed at the rise of Islamic extremism in East Africa since 1998, when al-Qaida militants bombed the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing about 220 people. The Uganda attack was the worst terrorist attack in East Africa since.
Issa Luyima said he left Somalia in April and spent time in the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa before being sent by al-Shabab superiors to Kampala.
Another suspect at the news conference, Idris Nsubuga, said he had detonated a bomb at the rugby club. Two suicide bombers, a Somali and a Kenyan, also detonated bombs, he said.
Nsubuga said he was jobless, under emotional stress and having marital problems when he joined the plot. He said Issa Luyima was interested in attacking places where white people, especially Americans, spent time.
The fourth suspect, Mohammed Mugisha, 24, of Rwanda, said he had been recruited by al-Qaida in Kenya two years ago and was given the task of running the Uganda attack. But he was dropped from that role after he made mistakes renting a safe house.