Man with Raleigh ties among dead in Uganda blasts
Posted July 11, 2010 10:44 p.m. EDT
Updated July 12, 2010 11:28 p.m. EDT
KAMPALA, Uganda — Explosions tore through crowds watching the World Cup final at a rugby club and an Ethiopian restaurant in Uganda's capital on Sunday, killing at least 74 people, including a man whose family lives in Raleigh.
Invisible Children, a San Diego, Calif.-based aid group trying to stop the abduction of children for use as soldiers, identified Nate Henn as one of its workers. He left for Uganda on July 1 and was scheduled to return to the U.S. on July 28.
Henn's family lives in northwest Raleigh. His mother said Monday that they weren't ready to discuss the 25-year-old's death.
"From traveling the United States without pay advocating for the freedom of abducted child soldiers in Joseph Kony's war, to raising thousands of dollars to put war-affected Ugandan students in school, Nate lived a life that demanded explanation. He sacrificed his comfort to live in the humble service of God and of a better world, and his is a life to be emulated," the group said in a statement on its website.
Kony heads the Lord's Resistance Army, which has waged one of Africa's longest and most brutal rebellions, in northern Uganda.
Henn picked up the nickname "Oteka," which means "The Strong One," during his work for Invisible Children.
“He was curious about life. He was willing to give everything he had,” Adam Finck with Invisible Children said of Henn.
Henn was among those killed at the rugby club, where where crowds sat outside watching the World Cup game on a large-screen television. He had played rugby at the University of Delaware, where he majored in psychology.
“He is just a great kid," Melanie Mask said of former neighbor Henn. "He never met an enemy. He is the child you want your child to be."
Some of the students he helped were with him at the time of the attack, officials said.
Police feared a Somali militant group linked to al-Qaeda was behind the attacks, as Uganda's president declared Monday "we shall get them wherever they are."
The blasts came two days after a commander with the Somali group, al-Shabab, called for militants to attack sites in Uganda and Burundi, two nations that contribute troops to the African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia.
If those suspicions prove true, it would be the first time that al-Shabab has carried out attacks outside of Somalia.
Police said Ethiopian, Indian and Congolese nationals were also among the injured and dead, police said.
Ugandan government spokesman Fred Opolot said Monday there were indications that two suicide bombers took part in the late Sunday attacks, which left nearly 60 others wounded.
Blood and pieces of flesh littered the floor among overturned chairs at the scenes of the blasts, which went off as people watched the game between Spain and the Netherlands.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni toured the blast sites Monday and said that the terrorists behind the bombings should fight soldiers, not "people who are just enjoying themselves."
"We shall go for them wherever they are coming from," Museveni said. "We will look for them and get them as we always do."
Ugandan army spokesman Felix Kulayigye said it was too early to speculate about any military response to the attacks.
Several Americans from a Pennsylvania church group were wounded in the restaurant attack including Kris Sledge, 18, of Selinsgrove, Pa. He said from a hospital bed afterward that he was "just glad to be alive."
Uganda's government spokesman said the first blast occurred at the Ethiopian Village restaurant at 10:55 p.m. Two more blasts happened at the rugby field 20 minutes later, he said.
Officials said the attacks will not affect the African Union summit being held in Uganda from July 19-27. Many African leaders are expected to attend.
"The summit will go on. The AU and African countries have the resolve to fight terrorism with the international community," said Ramtane Lamamra, the AU's peace and security commissioner.
Al-Shabab's fighters, including two recruited from the Somali communities in the United States, have carried out multiple suicide bombings in Somalia.
Ethiopia, which fought two wars with Somalia, is a longtime enemy of al-Shabab and other Somali militants who accuse their neighbor of meddling in Somali affairs. Ethiopia had troops in Somalia between December 2006 to January 2009 to back Somalia's fragile government against the Islamic insurgency. Ethiopia later withdrew its troops under an intricate peace deal mediated by the United Nations.
In Mogadishu, Somalia, Sheik Yusuf Sheik Issa, an al-Shabab commander, told The Associated Press early Monday that he was happy with the attacks in Uganda. Issa refused to confirm or deny that al-Shabab was responsible for the bombings.
"Uganda is one of our enemies. Whatever makes them cry, makes us happy. May Allah's anger be upon those who are against us," Sheik said.
In addition to Uganda's troops in Mogadishu, Uganda also hosts Somali soldiers trained in U.S. and European-backed programs.
White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said the U.S. was prepared to provide any necessary assistance to the Ugandan government.
President Barack Obama was "deeply saddened by the loss of life resulting from these deplorable and cowardly attacks," Vietor said.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton joined Obama in offering condolences and added, "The United States stands with Uganda. 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."