Uganda: Terror Suspect Gunned Down By Anti-Terror Forces

Uganda: Terror Suspect Gunned Down By Anti-Terror Forces

What happened?

A suspected terrorist has been killed by Uganda’s counter terrorism forces. He has been identified as Adam Matovu alias Manihajji, 36, a resident of Ttula zone, Kawempe 1 ward, Kawempe Division, Kampala.

How did it happen?

Police spokesperson Fred Enanga said that Matovu was gunned down by a team of Joint Counter-Terrorism officers when he jumped off a police patrol truck moments after he was arrested at the scene in Naguru.

"Encounters with terrorism suspects are usually violent and full of uncertainty. The officers kept telling him to stop, but he did not adhere to their command. As we revie, the shooting incident, we urge all suspects to always follow our due processes, to avoid such tragic incidents," Enanga added.

Related incidents

Several suspected terrorists have been killed in recent months while trying to escape or fight with security forces.

Hamid Nsubuga who fled from Pader District in Northenr Uganda where he reportedly planned a bomb attack at the burial ceremony of Deputy Inspector General of Ugandan Police, Lt Gen Paul Lokech, was killed by the East African nation Chieftancy of Military Intelligence (CMI) operatives while resisting arrest in Kampala.

Others killed include Hussein Lubwama and 3 others suspected of masterminding an assassination attempt of Uganda's Works Minister, General Katumba Wamala.


Uganda accuses Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) terrorists of planning bomb attacks in the central region in which two people died.

The ADF, whose main base is in the Democratic Republic of Congo, has had its agents arrested in Kampala by military intelligence.

Terror attacks grip Uganda

FOUR people, including two children, have been killed in recent weeks as domestic terrorism perpetrated by Islamist groups grips Uganda.

Seven other civilians have been injured.

Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) documented the terror attacks for the month of October, when four bomb attacks were recorded.

Since AOAV’s Explosive Violence Monitor began in 2011, eleven incidents of explosive violence have been recorded, totalling 47 civilian casualties (13 killed and 34 injured).

There have been three armed-actor casualties (1 killed, 2 injured).

The region’s Islamic State groups, namely Islamic State (IS) Central Africa Province and local affiliate Islamist militant group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) have claimed responsibility for two of the attacks in October.

The other two incidents remain unclaimed.

On October 8, IS militants detonated a bomb at a police post in Kawempe, a neighbourhood of the capital city Kampala.

The attack caused no casualties but was the first act of domestic terrorism in Uganda to be claimed by the IS.

On October 23, three IS militants posing as customers planted a bomb at a popular roadside restaurant in the same neighbourhood, killing a 20-year old waitress and injuring three others.

Some 48 suspects have been detained in relation to the incident.

On October 25, a suicide bomber detonated an explosive vest on a long-distance passenger bus near Kampala, killing himself and wounding three civilians.

Police spokesman Enanga said the bomber was on the wanted list of members of the ADF.

Also on the 25th, two children were killed by an explosive device given to them, under the guise it was an exotic jackfruit, while they were playing.

The deceased were identified as a 14-year-old boy and a child with disabilities.

Ugandan authorities are investigating the attacks.

Heightened security checks are being carried out at Kampala’s major transportation sites.

Attacks have raised concerns ADF is moving operations into Uganda from its historical base in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The insurgent group was established in the 1990s in opposition to President Yoweri Museveni and loyal to military strongman and former president, Idi Amin.

After its defeat in Uganda in 2001, ADF moved into northern DRC.

It has allegedly killed at least 739 civilians in the region since May 2021, according to AOAV.

Risk advisory

After downplaying a terror alert issued by the United Kingdom, only for two attacks to happen, the Ugandan government appears to be taking the terror threats seriously. In a televised national address, President Yoweri Museveni vowed to fight urban terrorism, saying “neither rural-based insurgency nor urban terrorism” will succeed, following two separate bomb attacks in October.

Members of Parliament have faulted the government for ignoring warnings on imminent terror attacks on Uganda by the United Kingdom (UK) Counter Terrorism Police, about two weeks ago.

The UK government had earlier on advised its nationals to be extremely vigilant about their security, adding that attacks on Uganda could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners.

However, the Ugandan Police said that despite the emerging sleeper terrorist cells, Uganda’s terror alert levels were not elevated yet.

But a week later, there was an attack in Komamboga, a suburb of Kampala, claiming the life of one Emily Nyiraneza. Another blast occurred aboard a Swift bus bound for Ishaka, and this claimed the life of one Isaac Matovu, who is suspected to be a suicide bomber.

Some analysts believe the terror attacks point to a deeper Jihadi coordination. Islamic State claimed both  23 October and 25 October attacks, and the police reported that the suicide bomber was on its list of wanted Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) members. Police also said the ADF was a possible suspect in the café bombing.

The ADF is an Islamic State affiliate that calls itself Islamic State Central Africa Province (ISCAP). The attacks raise questions about the links and tactics of jihadist groups in the region, whether they are increasing their focus on Uganda and presenting a wider threat.

Over the last few decades, the ADF has killed thousands of mostly unarmed civilians in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) North Kivu province. Attacks in Uganda have been less common. In July, the group was linked to an attempted assassination of a Ugandan government minister, which killed his daughter and driver.

The ADF only claimed its first attack in Uganda as an Islamic State affiliate on 8 October, boasting that it had detonated a small bomb in a Kampala police station. Police denied the attack had happened. Nevertheless, these may be signs that the tempo of ADF attacks in Uganda is about to increase.

The latest incidents may be signs that the tempo of ADF attacks in Uganda is about to increase.

Despite existing for several decades, the ADF remains a rather obscure organisation. Many observers regard it as a gang of warlords plundering DRC communities and flying the sinister Islamic State flag as a justification. Alex Vines, Africa Director at Chatham House, notes that ‘ADF claims Islamic State affiliations as flags of convenience but is mostly about Great Lakes and Ugandan politics.’ Other analysts believe the ADF really is a dedicated jihadist group.

In a new report by the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, Brenda Mugeci Githing’u and Tore Refslund Hamming write that the ADF takeover in 2015 by Musa Baluku, a dedicated Salafist, set the group on a trajectory to become an Islamic State province. It says Baluku’s determination to join Islamic State split the ADF – one faction was focused on implementing Islamic governance in Uganda, the other (Baluku’s faction) on supporting Islamic State’s global ambitions.

The report quotes Baluku saying in September 2020: ‘There is no ADF anymore … ADF was merely an alliance out of necessity for a certain time and when we finally got empowered … we are no longer ADF as a group! Currently, we are a province, the Central Africa Province which is one province among the numerous provinces that make up the Islamic State.’

Baluku’s ascent to the leadership also marked a shift to much more brutal tactics in North Kivu. The killing of civilians accelerated rapidly, at least in part because they were perceived as non-believers, the authors suggest.

Last week’s attack in Kampala recalled two similar assaults on the capital in July 2010. Bars crowded with customers watching the World Cup soccer were bombed, killing 74 people. Operatives of al-Shabaab – the violent extremist group in Somalia – were convicted for those attacks. Their motive was revenge against Uganda for contributing troops to the African Union’s peacekeeping mission fighting al-Shabaab in Somalia.

The ADF and al-Shabaab are in fact working closely together in Uganda and possibly elsewhere.

The ADF and al-Shabaab are ostensibly on opposite sides of the great jihadi divide because al-Shabaab is an al-Qaeda affiliate, so cooperation seems unlikely. Vines says he is unaware of any meaningful collaboration between the groups, although both have a bone to pick with Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni.

But the ADF and al-Shabaab are in fact working closely together in Uganda and possibly elsewhere, according to Githing’u and Hamming, and a former senior Ugandan official. The official told ISS Today that ‘usually the Islamic State [affiliate] in Mozambique, ADF and al-Shabaab do coordinate closely. In this case, it is possible ADF and al-Shabaab could be working together against what they call the “crusader Uganda government”’.

‘They use the Chain Restaurants model. Each is independent, but all share training and other standardised requirements. If one goes down, it doesn’t affect the others.’ The official added that ‘ADF has been active recently in DRC and Uganda by attacking targets and training suicide bombers.’

And Githing’u and Hamming write that although the issue of the ADF’s relations with external Islamist or jihadist groups is contested, the group has had close ties with al-Shabaab in Somalia since early 2011.

‘Al-Shabaab has since functioned as a key partner in logistics and training for the ADF, even after its incorporation into [Islamic State]. Early on, the ADF started sending fighters to Somalia for training, with al-Shabaab also sending trainers to DRC and the two groups engaged in shady smuggling exchanges related to illegal mining in North Kivu.’ The report describes similar links between the ADF and the al-Shabaab Kenya affiliate MYC/al-Hijra.

ADF has logistical and funding links with a group in the UK and a South African-based criminal network.

And Githing’u and Hamming note that the ADF has logistical links with a group in the United Kingdom and more recently a South African-based criminal network, both of which have provided vital funding. They add that while most of the ADF’s members are from Uganda and DRC, some are from surrounding countries.

The ADF’s links also extend to Rwanda. The report notes that in September, the Rwandan police arrested 13 persons allegedly plotting a terrorist attack in Kigali: ‘Captured with explosives and other material to produce bombs, the cell was, according to Rwandan police, cooperating with the Islamic State in DR Congo. The plans were assumedly in response to the Rwandan military campaign against the Islamic State in Mozambique.’

Githing’u and Hamming note that the ties to Islamic State central of the ADF and its Ahlu-Sunna wa-Jama (ASWJ) counterpart in northern Mozambique are also widely questioned. The authors attribute this to a misunderstanding of ‘affiliation’. It doesn’t refer to total Islamic State control of ADF and ASWJ operations. Instead, there is a transference of ideas, tactics, training and personnel, as shown by the recent use of improvised explosive devices in eastern DRC and northern Mozambique.

All of this suggests greater coordination among violent extremist groups across east and southern Africa than most observers are aware of. And that all countries – particularly those whose troops are fighting jihadists abroad such as South Africa, Tanzania and Rwanda – should be extra vigilant.