KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) β€” An al-Qaida-linked Somali militant group suspected in twin bombings in Uganda’s capital, that hit crowds watching the World Cup final, endorsed the attacks July 12 but stopped short of claiming responsibility, while the death toll rose to 74.

The blasts came two days after a commander with the Somali group, al-Shabab, called for militants to attack sites in Uganda and Burundi, two nations that contribute troops to the African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia.

The attacks on two soft targets filled with civilians also raise concerns about the capabilities and motives 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.

Sheik Yusuf Sheik Issa, an al-Shabab commander, told The Associated Press early Monday that he was happy with the attacks in Uganda but refused to confirm or deny that al-Shabab was responsible. “Uganda is one of our enemies. Whatever makes them cry, makes us happy. May Allah’s anger be upon those who are against us,” Sheik said.

Kampala’s police chief, Kale Kaihura, said he believed al-Shabab could be responsible. One of the targets was an Ethiopian restaurant – a nation despised by the al-Shabab militants.

Ugandan government spokesman Fred Opolot said Monday there were indications that two suicide bombers took part in the late Sunday attacks, which left dozens wounded. Opolot said the death toll also had risen to 74.

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 attacks appeared to represent a dangerous step forward by al-Shabab, analysts said, and could mean that other East African countries working to support the Somali government will face attacks.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni toured the blast sites Monday and said that the terrorists behind the bombings should fight soldiers, not “people who are just enjoying themselves.”

“We shall go for them wherever they are coming from,” Museveni said. “We will look for them and get them as we always do.”

 

MaxDelanyandJasonStraziuso

AssociatedPressWriters