Ugandan police say 3 killed by suicide bombers in country's capital

Two explosions rocked Uganda's capital, Kampala, on Tuesday, killing at least three civilians in what police described as a co-ordinated attack by extremists opposed to the government.

Islamic State claims responsibility for attack in Kampala

Two explosions hit Uganda's capital, Kampala, on Tuesday. The explosions occurred in the central business district of Kampala near the central police station and Parliament, police said. (Ivan Kabuye/AFP/Getty Images)

Two explosions rocked Uganda's capital, Kampala, on Tuesday, killing at least three civilians in what police described as a co-ordinated attack by extremists opposed to the government.

Three suicide bombers also died in the blasts, police said. The explosions caused chaos in Kampala as terrified residents fled the city's centre.

"The bomb threats are still active, especially from suicide attackers," said police spokesperson Fred Enanga. He said Tuesday's attacks bore "the hallmarks" of the work of the Allied Democratic Forces, an extremist group that is affiliated with the Islamic State group in central Africa.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the blasts, according to SITE, which tracks the online activities of extremist organizations.

The twin explosions occurred within three minutes of each other. Both were carried out by attackers carrying explosives. A possible attack on a third target was foiled by police who pursued and disarmed a suspected suicide bomber, Enanga said.

Security forces secure the scene of a blast on a street near the parliamentary building in Kampala. (Hajarah Nalwadda/The Associated Press)

Police released security video footage of the precise moments the bombers detonated their devices in the streets, sending clouds of white smoke billowing in the air. Police officers were among the casualties.

"We give thanks to God. He has protected us," said eyewitness Jane Among near one of the blast scenes. "We first heard a blast, and then when we stayed a little we heard another blast and saw dust all over."

One blast was near a police station and the other on a street near the parliamentary building, according to police and witnesses. The explosion near Parliament appeared to hit closer to a building housing an insurance company, and the subsequent fire engulfed cars parked outside. Body parts were seen scattered in the street, and later some lawmakers were seen evacuating the parliamentary building nearby.

Dozens injured

At least 33 people are being treated at the city's main public referral hospital, Enanga told reporters. Five are critically injured, he said.

People scampered to leave the city in the aftermath of the attacks, many on passenger motorcycles, as police cordoned off wide areas near the blast scenes, footage posted on social media showed.

The U.S. Embassy condemned the bomb attacks "in the strongest terms," extending condolences to the victims' families.

"United States' support for the Ugandan people is unwavering as we work toward our shared goal of a secure, democratic, and prosperous Uganda," it said in a statement posted on Twitter.

Ugandan officials have been urging vigilance in the wake of a string of bomb explosions in recent weeks.

Medical staff prepare a stretcher to receive victims of the explosion, at Mulago hospital, in Kampala. (Sumy Sadruni/AFP/Getty Images)

One person was killed and at least seven others wounded in an explosion at a restaurant in a suburb of Kampala on Oct. 23. The Allied Democratic Forces claimed responsibility for that attack.

Another explosion two days later on a passenger bus killed only the suicide bomber, according to police.

Even before those attacks, the U.K. government had updated its Uganda travel advisory to say extremists "are very likely to try to carry out attacks" in the East African country.

Enanga, the police spokesperson, said at least 150 planned attacks have recently been defused.

The Allied Democratic Forces has long been opposed to the rule of longtime President Yoweri Museveni, a U.S. security ally who was the first African leader to deploy peacekeepers in Somalia to protect the federal government from the extremist group al-Shabab.

In retaliation over Uganda's deployment of troops to Somalia, the group carried out attacks in 2010 that killed at least 70 people who had assembled in public places in Kampala to watch a World Cup soccer game.