World leaders decry Uganda blasts amid World Cup joy

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World leaders Monday condemned the "cowardly" blasts that killed 74 people in Uganda as they watched the broadcast of the World Cup final, an event that was hailed as a triumphant moment for Africa.

"These were cowardly attacks during an event that was widely seen as a celebration of African unity," British Foreign Secretary William Hague said of the attacks on two restaurants in the Ugandan capital Kampala on Sunday.

"The UK will stand with Uganda in fighting such brutal acts of violence and terror," he said in a statement.

US President Barack Obama likewise pledged US assistance to Uganda following the violence in which one American was among the victims, a spokesman said.

"The president is deeply saddened by the loss of life resulting from these deplorable and cowardly attacks, and sends his condolences to the people of Uganda and the loved ones of those who have been killed or injured," National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer said in a statement.

More than 60 people were also injured in the attacks targeting audiences glued to the television to watch Spain's 1-0 victory over the Netherlands in the World Cup final being played in South Africa, the first time the globe's most popular sporting event was held on the continent.

The head of the FIFA football governing body told journalists in Johannesburg he was saddened by the violence amid the euphoria.

"You can never stop crime, attacks, even when we think that during the World Cup the world should have stopped and should have been touched only by the emotions of the World Cup," said Sepp Blatter.

Ugandan authorities suspect the attacks were the work of Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab insurgents based in war-torn Somalia, where Uganda has thousands of troops deployed in an African Union mission to support the struggling transition government.

The Shebab's top leader earlier this month had called for a jihad (holy war) against countries contributing to the AU force. Uganda is set to host an AU summit on July 19-27.

Ethiopia also pointed to the Somali Islamists alleging that the blasts had "the bearings of the usual suspects -- the extremists such as the Shebab," said government spokesman Bereket Simon.

"We know that Ethiopians were among the victims but we haven't confirmed how many yet," he added. An Ethiopian restaurant and sports bar was the target of one of the Kampala attacks.

For the African Union, the attacks showed that terrorism has no boundaries.

"We condemn this act that was directed at an African country that is active in promoting the goals of the African Union," said Ramtane Lamamra, AU commissioner for peace and security.

"The attacks prove that terrorists can hit anywhere, including Africa."

Somalia's president denounced the blasts as "evil".

"The fact that the victims were enjoying the World Cup final reveals the evil and ugly nature of the perpetrators and the need to uproot from the region those who do not value the sanctity of human life," Sharif Sheikh Ahmed said in a statement.

In Paris, France denounced the attacks in Uganda as "barbaric" and also voiced support in the battle against international terrorism.

"The authors of these barbaric acts must be identified, pursued and brought to justice," said French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner.

"France stands beside the Ugandan people and supports Uganda in its fight against terrorism."

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also sent her condolences to the families and friends of the victims in the United States and Uganda.

"At this tragic moment, the United States stands with Uganda," Clinton said.

"We have a long-standing, close friendship with the people and government of Uganda and will work with them to bring the perpetrators of this crime to justice."


© 2010 AFP

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