Suicide bomber targeting Lokech mourners arrested

Some of the items which were confiscated by security operatives and are said to be bomb making equipment. PHOTO/COURTESY 

What you need to know:

  • Massive swoop by joint security agencies underway in Pader ahead of the burial today of the ‘Lion of Mogadishu’, which President Museveni is expected to attend. 
  • Inside, detectives said they caught Abdul Katumba, alias Ben, with a suicide vest and other motley materials for assembling an improvised explosive device (IED).

Uganda’s security forces yesterday took into custody a suspected suicide bomber whom they said planned to detonate an improvised explosive device (IED) at today’s burial of Maj Gen Paul Lokech.

The Deputy Inspector General of Police died abruptly on August 21 and police, citing autopsy reports, a day later said he succumbed to a blood clot in the lungs.

A military chopper yesterday flew his body from Kampala to Pader District where it arrived to an emotional meltdown epitomised by mourners rolling on the ground while others wailed uncontrollably with outstretched arms, many mumbling inaudible words.

As the searing early afternoon sun scorched mourners converged at Archbishop Flynn Secondary School in Pader Town, where the helicopter carrying Lokech’s body landed, spies from the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI), together with counterparts from other security outfits, stormed Atimi Kica Hotel in Pader Town.

Inside, detectives said they caught Abdul Katumba, alias Ben, with a suicide vest and other motley materials for assembling an improvised explosive device (IED).

Photographs reportedly taken inside the suspects room showed triacetone triperoxide, a crystalline solid listed by the United States Department of Homeland Security as second of five common-in-use materials for making IEDs, packed in a green plastic bag.

They also recovered a small mobile phone handset, of It-Fly make, connected to multiple sticking wires and a cache of screw drivers of different sizes stocked inside a brown leather bag.

On the back of the backpack was glued an A4-size paper on which a uniformed picture of Gen Lokech and a folded fist backgrounded against Uganda flag, were printed, proclaiming him “our hero”.

A receipt recovered from the suspect showed that he bought the It-Fly phone from ES-Phone Accessories at Shs40,000 only on Wednesday, this week, using the name Arnold.

Maj Gen Abel Kandiho, the chief of Military Intelligence, last night confirmed the operation and arrest of the suspect, but declined further comment.

From Pader, Resident District Commissioner Dusman Okee told this newspaper by telephone that Katumba was arrested from Atimi Kica Hotel - which name ironically loosely translates in Acholi to ‘I have forgiven/will forgive you’ - and handed over to counter-terrorism specialists at the central police station for interrogation.

“Yes, it is true that someone was arrested with materials used for making bombs…he is being questioned by our people of counter-terrorism…for sure, there is a terrorism threat, but we have heightened security,” he said after chairing an emergency district security meeting last night.

The arrest of the suspected suicide bomber prompted massive security swoop in Pader, and experts blasted an abandoned bag at Dok Ilwak Hotel, about a kilometre to Lokech’s burial site, sparking widely circulated rumour of a terrorist attack.

A highly placed source told this reporter last night that one of the suspects, who was out doing reconnaissance, escaped. A major hunt is underway for him.

According to the source that asked not to be named due to sensitivity of the matter, said the suspects were trailed from Kampala, where it is believed they intended to attack, but changed course over tighter security in the hope things would be lax in Pader.

There were unconfirmed that three other suspects, identified as non-natives in Acholi, had also been arrested, but we could not independently confirm this account.

Police Spokesman Fred Enanga did not receive out telephone call while Brig Flavia Byekwaso, the Defence and Military spokesperson, speaking from Pader, separately confirmed the suspected suicide bomber’s arrest, but said security agencies are on top of the situation.

“I want to assure particularly the mourners and the public generally that joint security forces have secured the place and there is no cause for alarm. Everything is under control,” she said by telephone.

Another highly placed source told this reporter that security and intelligence agencies were in overdrive, investigating two leads: a possible Al-Shabaab plot to avenge their expulsion from the Somali capital during an operation commanded by Maj Gen Lokech, earning him the moniker ‘Lion of Mogadishu’, or, a revenge mission by accomplices of suspects killed under Lokech’s command over their June 1 attempt on the life of Works Minister, Gen Katumba Wamala.

By last night, Special Forces, counter-terrorism operatives and teams from other overt and coverts state security outfits massed up in Pader town, with reinforcements following the potential terrorism scare.

President Museveni, who has publicly said nothing about the sudden demise of Maj Gen Lokech, is expected to grace his burial today in Pader. 

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