SNAPSHOT: Kampala suicide bombings signal growing terrorism risks in Uganda

 

SNAPSHOT: Kampala suicide bombings signal growing terrorism risks in Uganda

OVERVIEW

  • At around 1000 local time on Tuesday (16 November) three suicide person-borne IEDs (SPBIEDs) targeted the Nakasero district in central Kampala, the capital, in two separate incidents leaving at least three people dead and 33 more injured, including five assessed as critical.
  • In the first incident, which occurred at 1003 local time, a lone SPBIED detonated his explosives outside the Central Police Station. Three minutes later, two SPBIEDs on motorcycles detonated their explosives outside the Jubilee Insurance building, which also houses the Canadian consulate, on Parliamentary Avenue.
  • Nakasero is a key business district in the city where many corporate offices and foreign diplomatic missions are located. In October, Germany’s Allianz insurance group acquired a majority stake in Jubilee Insurance Holdings – the largest insurance company in East Africa.
  • Police have blamed militants loyal to the Allied Democratic Forces (also known as Madina at Tauheed Wau Mujahideen, ADF), which is a faction of Islamic State in Central Africa Province (ISCAP).
  • This was the first high-impact terrorist attack in Kampala since 2010, when al-Qaeda-affiliated militants detonated IEDs at two locations in the city during screenings of the FIFA World Cup final, leaving 74 people dead and scores more injured.
  • The latest attack signals a growing terrorism threat in the country, with further attacks highly likely over the coming three months.


CONTEXT

  • The latest twin-attacks follow a surge in militant activity in the country over the past five months. Since June, there has been a series of firearms and low-scale IED attacks targeting government officials, police, and transport operators. The frequency of attacks as well as the use of IEDs has increased since mid-October, indicating a growing trend.
  • Authorities have blamed these incidents on the ADF, a non-stated armed group of Ugandan origin but which has primarily been active in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) over the past decade. ISCAP has claimed responsibility for at least one incident, and it is likely its members will attempt to conduct further attacks on Ugandan soil.
  • ISCAP regroups the ADF and Ahlu al-Sunnah wal-Jamaah, a militant group which is based in northern Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province. However, the two groups’ operational links remain vague. Furthermore, ASJ has been significantly weakened and driven out of its strongholds since troops from Rwanda and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) deployed in July.

IMPACT ON OPERATIONS AND TRAVEL

  • In light of the latest attacks, we are increasing Uganda’s Terrorism Risk Score from Elevated to High, while maintaining the outlook as Negative over the coming three to six months.
  • During a press briefing following the 16 November attack, Commissioner of Police Fred Enanga warned that further attacks in-country are possible and called on the public to report any suspicious activity or share intelligence with the authorities. Enanga also announced that security forces had arrested another militant in Nansana, about 8km north-west of Nakasero. 
  • Security force operations in Kampala are likely to remain elevated over the next couple of weeks, with increased deployment and probable vehicle checks ramped up on major roads and junctions.
  • While most of the targets over the past five months have been government-linked institutions, such as the police, indiscriminate attacks against soft targets, including transport and hotels remain a realistic possibility.
  • Security measures at high-end hotels  and shopping malls are likely to increase as a result, potentially disrupting access to hotels and shops due to more robust vehicle inspections.

ADVICE TO COMPANIES AND BUSINESS TRAVELLERS

  • In-country staff should remain vigilant and monitor updates on further militant activity. Those staying at hotels in the city should ensure they have been vetted by a trusted security provider, while choosing rooms above the ground floor and away from high-streets, due to the threat of residual impact of IED or firearms attacks, as well as crime.
  • Corporate security teams should review security threat assessments of in-country staff and business travellers due to visit the country over the coming six months, and consider conducting new vetting of expatriate residential and business accommodation, as well as route planning from central Kampala to Entebbe International Airport (EBB) – the main entry point for international arrivals. Security measures may also be enhanced at EBB.
  • Beyond the heightened terrorism-threat level, business travellers should continue to ensure they abide by the government’s COVID-19 entry restrictions and broader travel requirements for foreign visitors.