Police say two people, including a terror suspect, have been killed and others injured recently when improvised explosive devices (IEDs) manufactured by local Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) terror cells were placed at a pork joint in a Kampala suburb and on a bus travelling to south-western Uganda.
According to a highly-placed source, a forensic report reveals that the attackers used ammonium nitrate and diesel to ignite the IED that was planted at Komamboga, Kawempe Division in Kampala.
As a new wave of insecurity sweeps across the country, the rebel group ideologue and founder, Jamil Mukulu, remains locked up behind the iron-curtain walls of Luzira Maximum prison, where he is occasionally shackled and driven to the High Court for his trial against charges of terrorism and crimes against humanity, among others.
But does he remain the gaffer who is able to run covert operations of the ADF or has power gradually gravitated to Mukulu’s acolyte, Musa Baluku, who is running sleeper cells embedded in communities in Uganda?
Mukulu and Baluku’s lofty ambitions for Jihad and establishing a sharia-abiding caliphate in Uganda and in the Great Lakes may have faded by the sands of time, but the recent events could have brought them closer once again.
The ADF, which has been operating in the lawless Ituri sanctuary in DR Congo, had briefly been off the security radar until the attempted assassination of Works minister Katumba Wamala.
In 1999, a spate of bombings took place in Kampala leaving scores dead and others injured.
As security personnel began combing the area for clues, former UPDF Chief of Defence Forces Katumba spoke to the media. In a video interview with Media Plus, a documentary production house run by Bart Kakooza, a former correspondent with CNN’s World Report, Gen Katumba, who was then a lieutenant colonel, said: “The investigators point to the information that these bombs are related. What measures are we going to take? We don’t want to reveal all the details, but we are going to be more vigilant and we shall have more covert and overt surveillance. Like in the bus parks and the taxi parks. Everybody should be security conscious.”
On June 1, Gen Katumba, a veteran of the treacherous battles against the LRA and various militias in DRC, escaped with serious injuries after gunmen cornered him in a narrow stretch in Kisaasi, Kampala.
His driver and daughter were killed in the attack.
President Museveni later revealed that one of the guns used by the ADF assassins to target Katumba was an AK-47, which in 2016 was used in the killing of Mohammed Kiggundu, a former ADF leader, who had joined the NRM government after being granted amnesty.
As a new wave of terrorism commences across the country, security personnel may need to rehash the old script they applied to nip in the bud bomb attacks in 2001.
They will have to meticulously study old files and relate them to recent incidents to complete this security matrix.
A source told Daily Monitor that ‘government should reconstitute the team of mid-level security personnel, which was both in the army and police that unearthed the ADF networks behind the bomb blasts in 2001.’
One of the incidents that they may need to carefully place under the microscope involves a prison warden who came in close contact with Mukulu at Luzira prison.
Highly-placed sources reveal that a Rakai-born prison warden by the name of Tumusiime, who was attached to Mukulu was radicalised and fled the service to join ADF.
The other incident involves the son, Yasin Hassan Nyanzi, who studied Information Technology in London and joined ADF fighters in their DRC safe haven where he got married.
He was later arrested in Nairobi on the offence of forgery after he was found with fake passports. After nine months in a Kenyan prison, Nyanzi was extradited to Uganda in 2011.
“I denounce what I was doing earlier. That is why I seek amnesty,” he told a news conference in 2013 after his involvement in rebel activity between 2008 and 2010, where he lost one eye during battle.
Nyanzi later sneaked out of the country and rejoined the ADF. He is currently running training centres in South Africa.
Before his arrest, Mukulu, who had a number of passports, usually melted into the Muslim community in Tottenham, London where he lived with his son Nyanzi and his other family.
Whereas Mukulu’s power could have waned as a result of his arrest and detention, he continues to exert influence through his kith and kin. Another son of Mukulu, Richard Mugisa, also known as Mzee, is one of the ADF commanders, according to a Congo- based research organisation, Asylum Research Centre.
One of the oldest tricks in the book, Mukulu has usually relied on his close family members to keep a tight grip of the ADF and to be able to snuff out any palace coups.
As the bombing campaign intensified in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Mukulu relied on his siblings to undertake some of his most sensitive assignments.
The first attempt to build sleeper cells first emerged in February 1997 at a discreet location in Najjanankumbi, a suburb in Kampala. This house was rented by Abudallah Kassim Mulumba, a senior ADF rebel. He converted this place of abode into a manufacturing sanctuary for IEDs and training centre for jihadists.
On February 22, 1997, a big blast rocked the area, at the crack of dawn killing Hussein Ssekinza, an ADF operative. Mulumba together with Siema Nakalanzi, a logistics courier for the rebel group, were arrested in the aftermath of the blast. Nakalanzi was released on police bond but later rejoined ADF rebels.
Two of Mukulu’s sisters Janat Bukwira and Mariam Nambolaye Nalubega were in charge of the outfit’s finances and logistics.
“My work was to look after my mother and my family and pay school fees for my children at home. My role was to take money to that friend of his, Kabaya and [Yusuf] Nyanzi,” revealed Nalubega interview with Media Plus Production shortly after she was detained in 2001.
It is not clear yet whether Yusuf Nyanzi is the same man who was recently charged with the murder of Mr Katumba’s daughter and driver, and five other murders including former assistant Inspector General of Police, Andrew Felix Kaweesi and Maj Muhammad Kiggundu.
Addressing a news conference at the Conference Centre on July 21, the then head of Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence, the late Lt Col Noble Mayombo revealed that they had arrested 28 suspected terrorists involved in bomb attacks and recovered bomb-making materials that could have assembled 48 IEDs.
The materials recovered include seven kilogrammes of Potassium Chloride, six kilogrammes of TNT explosives, cut pieces of cast iron pipes in different sizes, capable of making more than 20 bombs, one defensive grenade, soldering irons, pairs of pliers, drilling machines and 21 wrist watches used as timing clocks. Other items recovered included 15 kilogrammes of sugar, flasks, two blending machines, and a flat iron.
Among the 28 suspects were 12 women including Mukulu’s sisters.
Nalubega, who was then the chief financial controller, revealed that they relied on forex bureaus to wire money across the region.
By then, it was much easier to send money through such channels before stringent restrictions were imposed after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on US soil.
Training under ADF
Among those who were targeted for recruitment were unemployed youth, who were also trained in making counterfeit notes, robbing banks and vehicles.
Rasheed Kawawa, Yusuf Nyanzi and Kabaya, who she closely worked with, were among the masterminds of bombings across the city and in public transport facilities.
Others involved were Ibrahim Magala, Mohammed Katamba, Mohammed Kiggundu, Moses Kironde and Twaha Zubair who were linked to more than 20 bomb blasts.
One of the bombs was planted on ANNK, a Kigali-bound bus in August 1998, where 18 people died and 30 were critically injured. The overall death in attacks that ripped through three buses was 29.
In July 2001, three bombs planted by Yusuf Fred Nyanzi, Salaamu Namakula and Sarah Nabanja, alias Fatuma, went off in Jinja. Nyanzi had earlier on trained the duo in bomb-making skills in Nairobi for four weeks, according to their confessions barely after they were arrested.
Nabanja revealed: “He [Nyanzi] gave us money and said find me in Jinja and we later separated and each of us had our own car. At about 8:30 pm, he came with a bag and in a dark alley, he told me sit there and he gave me the bag and handed me Shs5,000. I left the bag, he later told us that it [bomb] exploded.”
Yusuf Nyanzi confessed that he ‘got instructions from my boss to take it to Jinja. He was supposed to pay me Shs2m. I was about to get paid. I was trained in bomb-making in 26 days, the ones that blew in Jinja.’
When asked how he felt when the bomb exploded and killed innocent people, Nyanzi responded, ‘I was not happy.’
Bazakula Waliggo’s leg was shattered by a bomb he was about to plant in a Kampala bar.
“I had three grenades, I handed out two and remained with one, which I concealed in a plaster before I was taken to hospital,” he revealed then.
Rasheed Kawaawa revealed that ‘for every bomb I make they give me Shs2m, I saw it as a simple way of making money and I made eight of them.’
Twahir Muzaare, upon his arrest revealed that he planted a bomb at the New Taxi Park at about 7:30pm [in the evening]. I did not do it intentionally but I was convinced that if I did that they would pay me at least Shs2m. I felt sad after learning that the bomb killed people.”
Muzaare also planted a bomb in Owino market, which he carried in a polythene bag.
These suspects were held at Central Police Station (CPS) and later at Luzira and Kigo prisons.
On July 24, 2002, at least 10 of the suspects, including three women, were committed to the High Court to answer charges of treason.
In its 2004 Human Rights Watch report titled: Cases of Torture and Arbitrary Detention, the US-based organisation revealed that ‘Rasheed (or Rashid) Kawawa, a 24-year-old student from western Uganda studying in Kampala, was arrested on July 14, 2001. He was tortured using plastic canes about one-and-a half metres long. They tied him up kandoya style for four days without being untied, and suspended him in the air for one whole night, tied up kandoya style.’
The report further revealed: “He was tortured for three months and then he admitted what they wanted him to say. He was brought to the Magistrates’ Court on Buganda Road on October 3, 2001, and charged with treason and misprision, including belonging to the ADF rebel group. Later the authorities added murder and terrorism to the charges.’
The report further revealed that: “The Ugandan government denies allegations of torture. It has informed us that he was charged with terrorism and murder in October 2003 and remanded to Kigo prison. He applied for amnesty and was released in January 2004.”
Some of the key patterns of the bomb attacks in the late 1990s and early 2000s that are relevant in regard to the latest wave of insecurity relates to the conduct of those who executed these attacks.
Many of those targeted for recruitment were unemployed youth. The number of disillusioned youth today has grown exponentially and terror networks could dangle funds to attract them into carrying out acts of violence.
“We also don’t have those who are willing to become suicide bombers,” revealed the highly-placed source.
However, some of the young fighters in the ADF ranks, who were born in the early 2000s inside the deeper recesses of DRC’s jungles and have subsequently become ‘stateless’ could be more radicalised than the older generation.
Falling into the deeper embrace of radicalisation, the ADF’s current leader, Musa Baluku, in 2016 paid allegiance to the global terror network, Islamic State.
However, according to a research publication titled: The Islamic State in Congo by George Washington University, Baluku’s outreach to the Islamic State was likely driven by more than just an ideological alignment. “According to an ADF member opposed to this pivot, the hope was that the Islamic State would be splashing them with dollars and weapons and ammunition.”
According to the report, more significantly, ADF links in southern Africa provide evidence of linkages between the DRC-based group and Ahl al-Sunna wal-jama’a, the Mozambican arm of the Islamic State. In January 2018, Abdul Rahman Faisal, a former sheikh in Kampala’s Usafi mosque was arrested in Mozambique with five others.
On August 12, 2018, Mozambican police chief, Bernardo Rafael listed Abdul Rahman Faisal among the leaders of the Cabo Delgado insurgency highlighting the first known direct link between the ADF and the Mozambican Islamic State.
In April 2018, security personnel raided Usafi mosque, a radicalisation bastion on the outskirts of Kampala City, where security personnel killed two people and arrested 36 others following a raid.
In total, 18 women and 94 children of various nationalities were found in the mosque, according to police.
Police recovered weapons, including 60 rounds of ammunition and a bow and arrow.
Highly-placed sources claim that Arab fighters usually make trips to the DRC to preach the radical jihad version to ADF fighters and try to make a ‘plausible case’ for establishing a caliphate.
In one of the grotesque videos seen by Daily Monitor, a young boy who is a son of one of the ADF fighters, is handed a blunt panga and ordered to decapitate a Congolese man, a copy-cat of beheadings by the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.
The Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) is an Islamist rebel group in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), considered a terrorist organisation by the Ugandan government.
It was originally based in western Uganda but has expanded into the neighbouring DRC.
Since the late 1990s, the ADF has operated in the DRC’s North Kivu province near the border with Uganda. While repeated military offensives against the ADF have severely affected it, the ADF has been able to regenerate because its recruitment and financial networks have remained intact.Some of the attacks it has been blamed for also appear to have been committed by other rebel groups as well as the Congolese Armed Forces.
From 2015, the ADF experienced a radicalisation after the imprisonment of its leader Jamil Mukulu and the rise of Musa Baluku in his place. From 2019, the ADF had split, with one part remaining loyal to Mukulu, while the other had merged into the Islamic State’s Central Africa Province under Baluku.