Uganda Arrests Five Pakistani Terror Suspects; Crossed Border From DRC

June 27th, 2012

KAMPALA, Uganda—Five Pakistanis have been arrested in Uganda’s western oil region, police said Tuesday, just two weeks ahead of the second anniversary of deadly terror attacks in the capital Kampala.

Ugandan police spokeswoman Judith Nabakoba said that the five men were arrested Sunday in the district of Ntoroki after they crossed the border from the Democratic Republic of Congo. In the Congo, they had allegedly met with Allied Democratic Forces, a group of Ugandan rebels formed in the mid-1990s to overthrow the government and establish an Islamic state.

“They were arrested after they crossed into Uganda with a Congolese guide,” Ms. Nabakoba said “They are suspected to be involved in terrorism but we are still interrogating them.”

Following the arrests, Ugandan police issued a terror alert, warning that militants could target Ugandan fans watching games of the European soccer championship. The warning carried echoes of attacks in Kampala that came as fans watched the finals of the 2010 World Cup. The Somali militant group al Shabab, which is allied with al Qaeda, claimed responsibility for those attacks that left more than 80 people dead.

Police said the five men arrested on Sunday had explained they were traversing the country to spread Islam. Their identities haven’t been released.

Bony Katatumba, consul general at the Pakistan Consulate in Uganda, said he was still waiting for a formal notification from the police about the charges the men face. There are some 5,000 Pakistanis in Uganda, he added, engaged in a number of businesses, from car dealerships to pharmaceuticals.

“I have heard about the arrests, but the police is yet to furnish me with the details,” said Mr. Katatumba.

A spokesman in Islamabad for Pakistan’s foreign ministry couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Ugandan intelligence officials believe the Islamic fighters that make up the ADF have regrouped in Eastern Congo after they were driven from Uganda in 2004. In March, the Ugandan army said the ADF had set up three camps in Congo’s North Kivu province, some 18 miles (30 kilometers) from the Ugandan border, near where oil exploration companies have discovered some 1.5 billion barrels of oil.

The ADF orchestrated a string of deadly bomb attacks in Uganda in the late 1990s, targeting mainly taxis, public buildings and markets. Ugandan intelligence officials say that the group, which was largely supported by the Somali government in the 1990s, is also closely linked to al Qaeda.

That threat, coupled with a spate of terror attacks in neighboring Kenya, has put Uganda security forces on high alert.