Terrorists vs. Soccer, Ctd.

An attack on soccer fans in Uganda is being blamed on the Somali insurgent group al-Shabaab, which has ties to al-Qaeda:

NAIROBI -- Two explosions, minutes apart, tore through two venues in the Ugandan capital where crowds were watching television broadcasts of the World Cup final late Sunday, killing at least 64 and wounding scores, Ugandan police said. At least one American was killed and several wounded, according to the U.S. Embassy in Kampala.

The bombings unfolded at a rugby club and at an Ethiopian restaurant in Kampala where hundreds of boisterous and cheering soccer fans, including clusters of foreigners, had gathered to watch Spain beat Netherlands in the final in South Africa.

Ugandan Police Chief Kale Kaihura immediately pointed blame at Somalia's al-Shabab, a hard-line militia with growing ties to al-Qaeda that has perpetrated several bombings in recent months in Somalia. But as of early Monday, no group had claimed responsibility for the attacks in a city widely considered to be among the safest on the continent.

Al-Qaeda's affiliate in Algeria had threatened to attack the games but nothing materialized. While al-Shabaab's hatred of soccer watching probably informed the choice of target, the group has previously threatened to attack Uganda over the presence of Ugandan peacekeepers in Mogadishu. Ugandan soldiers make up the largest part of the African Union force supporting the Transitional Federal Government. Al-Shabaab's existence in its current form is something of an own-goal for U.S. counterterrorism efforts, which I've explained previously here.

As a general matter, extremists hate soccer because it helps foster a secular sense of national identity and offers pleasure that has nothing to do with religion. But attacking innocent people is how terrorist groups destroy whatever credibility they have, let alone when they do so in the pursuit of destroying local cultural traditions that predate their existence and that of the twisted ideology they follow.

My condolences also to Dave Weigel, whose friend Nate Henn, an activist with a group called Invisible Children that is trying to end the use of child soldiers, was among those killed in the bombing.

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