Sunday, July 25, 2010

Museveni urges battle against terrorism as meeting opens

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi (L) is greeted by wellwishers upon his arrival at Entebbe international airport on July 24, 2010. Ugandan forces imposed tight security as more than 30 heads of state began converging on Kampala for an African Union summit barely two weeks after deadly suicide attacks. AFP|NATION

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi (L) is greeted by wellwishers upon his arrival at Entebbe international airport on July 24, 2010. Ugandan forces imposed tight security as more than 30 heads of state began converging on Kampala for an African Union summit barely two weeks after deadly suicide attacks. AFP|NATION 

Kampala, Sunday

Uganda’s president urged African Union leaders at a summit here today to “sweep the terrorists” out of Africa, following recent deadly attacks by Somalia’s Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab rebels.

“Let us now act in concert and sweep them out of Africa,” Mr Yoweri Museveni said, referring to the perpetrators of the July 11 blasts in Kampala that killed 76 revellers watching the football World Cup final.

“Let them go back to Asia or the Middle East where I understand some come from,” he said at the opening of the three-day summit.

More than 30 heads of state from the AU’s 53 members gathered amid unprecedented security in the Ugandan capital, with a debate on boosting the organisation’s troops levels in Somalia and crushing the Islamist insurgents in the war-torn nation top of the agenda.

The AU summit observed two minutes of silence for the victims of the attacks two weeks ago.

“The African Union stands with you, my brother President Museveni, and with the people of Uganda,” Bingu wa Mutharika, Malawi’s president and current chairman of the AU, said in his opening remarks.

Museveni also said many of the organizers of the attacks in Kampala have been arrested.

“Their interrogations have yielded very good information,” he added.

Ugandan authorities have not been precise regarding the number of people detained for their suspected involvement in the blasts. Last week the inspector general of the Uganda police force, Kale Kayihura, put the figure at “more than 20” but several of those individuals have since been released.

The two bombings were meant to bully Uganda into pulling out of the AU mission in Somalia (AMISOM), the last thing standing between the Shebab and total power.

Uganda reacted by saying it could send 2,000 more troops and urged more decisive international support, while the embattled Somali government argued the attacks were evidence Somalia required the world’s attention.

AU chief Jean Ping said on Friday Guinea was ready to send troops to Somalia.

“We are going to quickly top the 8,000 mark... I think the current trend could take us over 10,000.”

Angola, Mozambique and South Africa may also pledge troops, whose current deployment consists of just over 6,000 Ugandans and Burundians, according to diplomats.

Mr Ping also reiterated that the African Union was seeking a tougher mandate for AMISOM under the United Nations Charter’s chapter seven, allowing it to take more aggressive action.

“If this request is answered positively, our troops will attack,” he said.

The Shabab leadership has proclaimed its allegiance to Osama bin Laden and the group’s first bomb attacks outside Somalia renewed fears that the Horn of Africa country could become a new safe haven for Al Qaeda. (AFP)


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