KAMPALA, Uganda — Just over a month after the July 11 terrorist bombings that rocked Uganda’s capital city, the prime suspects were paraded before the public at a government press conference last week.
The explosions killed 79 people, including one American.
The four young men, all Ugandans, confessed to planning and carrying out the bombings at the Kyadondo rugby grounds and the Ethiopian Village Restaurant in Kampala. They said they carried out the bombings for Al Shabaab, the Somali Islamic extremist group.
Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for the deadly explosions, saying the violence was to punish Uganda for providing troops to the African Union peacekeeping force that is supporting the Somali president, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.
Edrisa “Issa” Ahmed Luyima, 33, admitted to being a member of Al Shabaab and the mastermind of the attacks. He said he recruited his brother as well as the Somali and Kenyan suicide bombers.
In his emotionless statement, Issa apologized to Ugandans.
“I am very sorry for the loss of life. I was hesitant to pick on Ugandans. My target was the Americans, who I think are responsible for the suffering in the world. I am very sorry to the people, who knew me ... my rage was against the Americans ... our aim was to kill Americans.”
Haruna “Hassan” Luyima, 27, the younger brother of the alleged leader, was a Kampala businessman. He confessed to taking the Kenyan suicide bomber to the Ethiopian restaurant and a fourth, un-detonated bomb to Makindye, a Kampala suburb.
Through tears, Hassan said, “I went with the other bomb to Makindye but I did not detonate it ... I realized my mistakes and changed my mind.”
Edris Nsubuga, 30, a businessman and friend of the Luyimas, and a student at Kampala's Makerere University, scouted bomb sites and transported the bombers to the second blast site at Kyadondo Rugby Grounds. His cell phone was used to set off the second bomb at the site.
Overcome with emotion, Nsubuga said: “I was unemployed. I was emotionally distressed. I had problems. A lot of misunderstandings with my wife.”
His sorrow seemed punctuated by a twist of fate. Nsubuga’s own aunt, Margaret Nabankema, was among those killed in the rugby club attack, which he helped orchestrate.
Mohammed Mugisha, 24, is a member of Al Shabaab and was responsible for finding a safe house for the suspected terrorists.
“I joined Al Shabaab in 2008, they were coordinating with Al Qaeda. I was sent here to rent a house in which the bombings were to be planned,” he said.
Mugisha said he was promised a reward in heaven and that he is sorry.
Despite the public confessions, some Ugandans doubt that those arrested are the true masterminds.
“We wonder about the arrests, there have been so many and then many were let go ... these are the guys, these are not the guys ... the media reported all this and we wonder if the media is responsible and honest with us or are they being told what to say by some government officials,” said Ernest Wasake, a 27 year-old public relations executive and media analyst.
For Wasake the bombings are personal, so he wants to be sure he has all the information that is available.
“We lost a colleague and a friend to the bombings and still await the full FBI report about what happened. We are not yet satisfied that all the culprits have been captured. We saw the FBI arrive, we saw the photos, now we want to hear from them,” he said.
Susan Isagayite is in her 30s and in human resources. She is happy that the government mad the arrests, but finds it difficult to believe that Ugandans could do such a thing to their own countrymen. She believes, "there is more Somali involvement.”
In another press conference, the Inspector General of Police, Maj. Gen. Kale Kayihura said that he believed all four men were Al Qaeda.