Friday October 18 2013

Police issue red alert over terrorist threats



The Police Force has recalled all its officers who were on leave and issued a red alert after the American embassy in Uganda sent a notice to its citizens, warning of a possible Westgate-style attack in Kampala.

The directive was contained in a radio message sent to all police units by the Inspector General of Police, Gen Kale Kayihura. He ordered all his officers to be on stand-by, recalling those on leave but also directing that no officer takes leave “until further notice”. “We are taking the information on terror threats passed on to us by our counterparts seriously. The orders are very clear. All officers’ alertness has been raised to class one,” Police Spokesperson Judith Nabakooba told the Daily Monitor yesterday.

Besides warning its citizens late on Wednesday, the American Embassy also indicated that it was sharing all information with the Ugandan authorities, but added that there was no “further information on timing or location of this attack”. A red alert is the highest form of notice the police can issue. It means there is a high likelihood of a terrorist attack. It also gives police officers the right to stop and search anyone thought to be a security threat. Such an alert also translates into cancellation of public gatherings and events.

Members of the public are also advised to move with some form of identification during such alerts, while key State facilities, army bases and other high-profile landmarks are declared out of bounds to the public. Ms Nabakooba said public events such as music concerts would be allowed only if organisers involved the police.

The police have also heightened their surveillance at major shopping malls and public places such as taxi parks, although checks in some of these places remained rudimentary. When the Daily Monitor visited the Old Taxi Park yesterday, there were no checks for the hundreds of travellers accessing the facility.

Police said they have constituted a multi-agency ad hoc committee, comprising private security organisations to review operational security procedures at all public places.

The last time the police issued a red alert was in July 2010, following the twin bombings that left more than 70 people dead in Kampala. The al-Shabaab militant group claimed responsibility for the attacks, which targeted crowds watching the World Cup finals at Kyadondo Grounds and the Ethiopian Village in Kabalagala.

It is the same group that claimed the recent September 21 attack on Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, where armed militants stormed the facility, shooting to death more than 60 people and injuring hundreds others.