Jamestown Foundation's Terrorism Monitor: Islamic State Claims First Operation in Uganda as Rwanda Upgrades its Counter-Terrorism Capacity

    Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 19 Issue: 20

    By: Jacob Zenn

    October 20, 2021 02:48 PM

    On October 7, Uganda announced that its police force had killed a 25-year-old resident of Kampala, Hamid Nsubuga (alias Young Midu). The police had been following him for hours before killing him because intelligence had been obtained exposing Nsubuga’s plan to assassinate a politician, whose name the police did not reveal. Nsubuga first came on the security forces’ radar in August when he was suspected of participating in planting a bomb at the funeral service of Deputy Inspector General of Police, Lieutenant General Paul Lokech. A search of Nsubuga’s house also revealed an arsenal of weapons and ammunition (monitor.co.ug, October 7).

    Suspicions that Nsubuga was a member of the Allied Defense Forces (ADF), which has since merged into Islamic State in Central Africa Province (ISCAP), conveyed that the other suspects in the funeral assassination plot may have been members of the group (monitor.co.ug, October 5). Such suspicions about Nsubuga were also confirmed when the Islamic State (IS) claimed that a “soldier of the Caliphate” conducted a bombing at a police station in Kampala on October 10 (Twitter.com/@azelin, October 10). The similarity between the IS claim and Uganda’s report of Nsubuga’s operation indicates Nsubuga, and thereby the ADF, are communicating with IS.

    The operation was not only IS’s first ever claim in Uganda, but also represented one of the few terrorist operations in the country. Al-Shabaab’s bombings in Kampala during the World Cup in 2010, which killed more than 70 people, was otherwise the largest terrorist attack in the country’s history (Al Jazeera.com, July 13, 2010). In contrast, IS through ISCAP has claimed responsibility for numerous operations in Congo and Mozambique.

    The regionalization of ISCAP, which is exemplified by Nsubuga’s attempted operation in Uganda, will validate Rwandan president Paul Kagame’s assertions that ISCAP is a regional threat because it has members from all over East Africa, including Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, Somalia, and Mozambique, as well as some from the Middle East (theeastafrican.co.ke, September 25). Kagame has, in turn, taken the lead in regional counter-terrorism with Rwanda’s deployment of 1,000 soldiers to Cabo Delgado province in Mozambique (in order to) dislodge ISCAP from its territorial holdings there. Further, there are reports of Rwanda seeking to obtain Turkish Bayraktar TB2 drones, which would further strengthen Rwanda’s counter-terrorism capabilities (africaintelligence.com, October 7).

    Amid IS’s own expansion in East Africa, Rwanda is emerging as its number one foe. The attempted attack by Nsubuga will further serve as vindication for Rwanda that heightened counter-terrorism measures are needed to preserve security in East Africa. The otherwise tiny nation of Rwanda has hit above its weight class when it comes to counter-terrorism.

    Evarist Chahali

    Evarist Chahali

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