Uganda: Three Brothers Among Terrorists Jailed for Role in Deadly Kampala Bombings

"In regard to each of the offence, with regard to terrorism, murder and attempted murder: Hussein Hassan Agade, Idris Magondu, Issa Ahmed Luyima, Habib Suleiman Njoroge and Mohammed Ali Mohammed are each sentenced to life imprisonment. They will each spend the remainder of their lives in prison. I have taken into consideration the centrality of their individual participation in crime," said Justice Alfonso Owiny Dollo, concluding the long-running case of 13 men charged with the July 2010 terrorist attacks in Uganda.

Issa Luyima was sentenced to life in prison for being the master planner in the execution of the terror attacks in which 76 people were killed and several others maimed.

The worst terrorist attack on Kampala residents was executed in twin bombings at the Kyadondo Rugby Club and the Ethiopian Village Restaurant and Bar on July 10, 2010.

The attacks were plotted from Somalia to hurt Uganda for sending troops to Somalia. Besides masterminding the attacks, he rented houses in Namasuba, a Kampala suburb, where the bomb materials were stored, and identified the possible soft targets for the attacks. He also received two suicide bombers and hosted them at his rented house, the court was told.

Issa recruited his brother Hassan Luyima, who was assigned the duty of escorting one of the suicide bombers to the Ethiopian Village and to a house in Makindye.

He was also present at the Namasuba house, where the wiring of the bombs was done. For his role, he was handed 50 years in jail, jointly with Hussein Nyamadondo.

Their third brother Muzafar Luyima was sentenced to community service for one year after he was found guilty on two counts of being an accessory. He hid some suspects inside his house in an attempt to elude justice. The offence attracts a maximum sentence of three years, but owing to the five years he spent in remand, the judge sentenced him to community service.

Father's agony

The agony in the voice of their father, Ahmed Nondo, was palpable.

"I gave my sons the best education I could afford. I gave them religious education to be good Muslims, but I never knew what the boys were up to. I was only informed when they were arrested. You are a mother and I know you have children, but you will never know what they become," a visibly disheartened Nondo told The EastAfrican.

The judge had only harsh words for the convicts: "Hundreds of victims of these wanton acts had nothing to do with deploying of UPDF (Uganda People's Defence Forces) in Somalia. It is quite probable that among the victims of the bomb blast were those who were irreconcilably opposed to the deployment and yet because of the senseless indiscriminate attacks, they are either dead or permanently living with scars." SEE VIDEO HERE

Although murder and terrorism attract the death penalty, a Supreme Court decision in 2009 removed mandatory death penalty and allowed convicts to mitigate their sentences. The judge does not believe death penalty is punitive enough and used his discretion to hand the sentences.

He acquitted five others for lack of evidence.

Maximum sentence

The state, represented by Lino Ochieng, had asked the court to impose the "maximum sentence for the offences of terrorism and murder."

"This crime is alive... people like these are very dangerous and keeping them in prison is dangerous too. Maximum sentence is what we pray for," said Mr Lino.

The defence, represented by Caleb Alaka, asked for leniency, arguing that the convicts were first offenders, are young and are capable of reforming and being useful to society. Their crime, he argued, was a result of ideological orientation acquired during training in Al-Shabaab camps in Somalia.

"Life imprisonment is the best form of punishment because your crime haunts you. An eye for an eye cannot act as deterrent to others," said Mr Alaka.

The terror attacks were carried out on the final day of the 2010 Fifa World Cup, targeting venues where football fans had gathered to watch the final match.The victims of the first bombing at the Ethiopian Village were mainly foreigners.

The second attack, consisting of two explosions in quick succession, occurred at 11:18pm at the Kyadondo Rugby Club, where state-run newspaper New Vision was hosting a screening of the match.

According to eyewitnesses, there was an explosion around the 90th minute of the match, followed seconds later by another one that knocked out the lights at the field. An explosion went off directly in front of one of the large screens.

Al-Qaida-linked Al-Shabaab terror group claimed responsibility for the blasts.

Precedent-setting

THE GUILTY verdicts are thought to be the first convictions of Al-Shabaab suspects outside Somalia.

Six other men also standing trial were acquitted of terror and murder charges, but one was convicted of a lesser accessory charge.

Lawyers for the five acquitted suspects said their clients have been rearrested and taken outside of Kampala.

Police sources told the BBC's Patience Atuhaire the men were being held for their own safety.

The case was brought to court after a major investigation across East Africa, led by the FBI.

Al-Shabaab emerged as the radical youth wing of Somalia's now-defunct Union of Islamic Courts, which controlled Mogadishu in 2006, before being forced out by Ethiopian forces. There are numerous reports of foreign jihadists going to Somalia to help Al-Shabaab, from neighbouring countries.

Source: The East African.

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