(Reuters) - Bomb blasts ripped through two bars packed with soccer fans watching the World Cup final in Uganda’s capital overnight, killing scores of people.
Police blamed Somali Islamists but there was no immediate claim of responsibility.
Al Qaeda-inspired al Shabaab militants in Somalia have threatened to attack Uganda for sending peacekeeping troops to the anarchic country to prop up the Western-backed government.
Here are some details about al Shabaab:
— Al Shabaab, which means “Youth” in Arabic, has taken control of large areas of south and central Somalia. The Horn of Africa nation has been mired in anarchy since warlords toppled military dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.
— The interim government’s attempts to restore central rule have largely been paralysed by infighting and the Islamist-led insurgency. Fighting has killed more than 21,000 people since the start of 2007 and uprooted at least 1.5 million civilians. The chaos has also helped fuel kidnappings and piracy offshore.
— Al Shabaab’s hardline militia was part of the Somalia Islamic Courts Council (SICC) movement that pushed U.S.-backed warlords out of Mogadishu in June 2006 and ruled for six months before Somali and Ethiopian forces ousted them.
— In June 2009, al Shabaab officials in one of the group’s Mogadishu strongholds ordered four teenagers to each have a hand and a leg cut off as punishments for robbery.
— Al Shabaab’s interpretation of Islamic law has shocked many Somalis, who are traditionally more moderate Muslims. Some residents give the insurgents credit for restoring order to the regions under their control.
— Al Shabaab have sought to recruit school children to join a ‘holy war’ against the Somalia’s government and its allies.
— The Somali government says hundreds of foreign fighters have joined the insurgency from countries including Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Gulf region and Western nations such as the United States and Britain. Some of the foreign jihadists have taken up leadership positions in militant groups including al Shabaab.
— One American national of Somali origin was killed while fighting for al Shabaab in Mogadishu last July.
— Also last July Australian police arrested four men linked to the group, raising concern it may be seeking targets outside Somalia.
— In September 2009, al Shabaab insurgents struck the main African Union military base in Mogadishu with twin suicide car bombs and killed 17 peacekeepers. Rebels said the bombing was revenge for the U.S. killing of Kenyan-born Salah Ali Saleh Nabhan, a most-wanted al Qaeda militant.
— Two French security advisers were kidnapped by Shabaab last July but one escaped a month later. The group issued a statement of demands in September, which included an immediate end to French support for the Somali government and the withdrawal of African Union peacekeepers.
— Al Shabaab has threatened to strike Uganda’s capital Kampala and Burundi’s capital Bujumbura because both nations contribute troops to the 6,100-strong AU peacekeeping force
— The U.N.’s World Food Programme suspended its work in much of southern Somalia in January due to threats against its staff and unacceptable demands by al Shabaab rebels controlling the area.
Writing by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit; Editing by Maria Golovnina