Deadly Blasts Hit World Cup Watchers In Uganda

Al-Qaida-linked Somali militants on Monday praised a pair of explosions that killed at least 74 people, including one American, in Uganda's capital over the weekend. Dozens more were wounded. The explosions at an Ethiopian restaurant and a rugby club where soccer fans were watching the World Cup final occurred about 20 minutes apart late Sunday.

The Somali Islamic fundamentalist group al-Shabab declined to confirm or deny its involvement in the apparent suicide attacks, but a commander of the organization, which is trying to overthrow the government in Somalia, said Uganda was an enemy and "whatever makes them cry makes us happy."

The explosions late Sunday occurred about 20 minutes apart, first at an Ethiopian restaurant and then at a rugby field, where soccer fans were watching the World Cup final. An American aid worker was among those killed.

Just two days before the attack, al-Shabab had called on militants to attack sites in Uganda and Burundi, as both countries contribute troops to the African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia, where the group has tried to impose a strict Islamic state. The African Union force backs Somalia's weak interim government, which the militants have vowed to topple.

Blood and pieces of flesh littered the floor among overturned chairs at the scenes of the blasts, which went off as people watched the game between Spain and the Netherlands. The attack on the rugby club, where crowds sat outside watching a large-screen TV, left 49 dead, police said. Fifteen others were killed in the restaurant explosion.

"We were enjoying ourselves when a very noisy blast took place," Andrew Oketa, one of the hospitalized survivors, told The Associated Press. "I fell down and became unconscious. When I regained, I realized that I was in a hospital bed with a deep wound on my head."

Several Americans from a Pennsylvania church group were wounded in the restaurant attack. Invisible Children, a San Diego, Calif.-based aid group, identified the dead American as one of its workers, Nate Henn, 25, a native of Wilmington, Del.

Following the explosions, police immediately cordoned off the area around the explosions to begin an investigation.

On Monday, a Ugandan government spokesman said there were indications that the attack was carried out by two suicide bombers. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni toured the blast sites and said he would pursue the perpetrators of the bombing.

"We will look for them and get them as we always do," Museveni said.

President Obama described the attacks as deplorable and cowardly. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised Washington's help to the Ugandan government to bring the perpetrators to justice.

The attacks raise concerns about the capabilities of al-Shabab, which the U.S. State Department has declared a terrorist organization. If confirmed that the group carried out the attacks, it would be the first time al-Shabab has struck outside Somalia.

Police said Ethiopian, Indian and Congolese nationals were also among those killed and wounded, police said.

With reporting from Ofeibea Quist-Arcton in Johannesburg and Benedict Moran in Arusha, Tanzania, and material from The Associated Press. Copyright 2010 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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