FBI: Uganda attacks signal terror group potential

Uganda attacks
Damaged chairs and tables amongst the debris strewn outside the restaurant "Ethiopian village" in Kampala, Uganda, Monday, July 12, 2010 after an explosion at the restaurant late Sunday. Simultaneous explosions tore through crowds watching the World Cup final at a rugby club and an Ethiopian restaurant, killing at least 64 people including one American, officials said. Police feared an al-Qaida-linked Somali militant group was behind the attacks.
AP Photo/Marc Hofer

If the Somali terror group al-Shabab is responsible for the deadly attacks in Uganda, it could mean the group is capable of carrying out successful attacks in Africa and beyond, according to an intelligence assessment by the FBI and Homeland Security Department.

Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the explosions that killed 76 people watching the World Cup final in Uganda Sunday. Intelligence officials have long warned that sporting events and large gatherings are attractive targets for terrorists.

This attack would be al-Shabab's first successful strike outside of Somalia, according to the July 12 intelligence analysis obtained by The Associated Press. The document is marked for official use only and was distributed to law enforcement officials across the country. U.S. officials have yet to publicly comment on the significance of the attacks.

Intelligence officials have previously considered the al-Qaida affiliated group a threat to the U.S. In 2007 and 2008, about 20 Somali-American men were recruited and left the Minneapolis area to join forces with al-Shabab.

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And Omar Hammami, a U.S. citizen currently based in Somalia, has appeared in the terror group's media productions and urged people to travel to Somalia for terror training, according to a May 21 Homeland Security intelligence assessment about the evolution of terror threats to the U.S.

"We cannot exclude the possibility that U.S. persons aligned with al-Shabab in the Horn of Africa may return to the U.S., possibly to carry out acts of violence," said the assessment, also obtained by The AP.

Shortly before President Barack Obama's inauguration, U.S. officials were concerned about intelligence they received regarding a potential threat from al-Shabab to the event. By the time Obama was sworn in, the terror threat had been debunked.

Al-Shabab, which means "The Youth," has been gaining ground as Somalia's Western-backed government crumbles. The group's goal is to establish an Islamic state in Somalia.

The FBI says it's currently working with other U.S. government officials overseas to monitor developments in the Uganda attacks.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)