Ammonium nitrate used in Komamboga, Swift bus bomb attacks

Police commandant faults Komamboga area police for laxity in enforcing curfew
Police commandant faults Komamboga area police for laxity in enforcing curfew

Kampala, Uganda | URN | After a critical analysis of the two Improvised Explosive Devices-IEDs that went off last week, police and military forensic analysts have concluded that ammonium nitrate was the propellant used to provide the pressure to scatter the shrapnel that injured or caused death in both blasts.

The first IED went off at Digida pork joint in Komamboga leaving one female worker Emily Nyinaneza dead, while three other people survived with fragment wounds.

Another explosion occurred inside a Swift bus at Lungala village, in Mpigi district causing the death of one Isaac Matovu, aka Muzafaru.

The police forensic team led by Andrew Mubiru, head of the Directorate of Forensic Science-DFS, has written a report shared to Joint Security Operations Committee sitting at Naguru police headquarters, explaining that ammonium nitrate was the propellant embedded with nails, bicycle ball bearings and other fragments in Komamboga and Swift bus explosives.

“We are lucky that the ammonium nitrate used was in small quantity and it had not yet decomposed to become more lethal,” a senior police officer who had a copy of the report explained. “We believe these terrorists haven’t mastered the entire art of using ammonium nitrate to throw the shrapnel with a lot of pressure.”

Andrea Sella, a professor of chemistry at University College London, was quoted by BBC in August last year following the Beirut explosion explaining that ammonium nitrate is a crystal-like solid, white in colour and often used as a source of nitrogen for fertilizers. Sella added that ammonium nitrate can be used to make explosives especially when it overstays and decomposes.

The joint security team drawn from CMI, CI, ISO, DFS and CID emphasizes that revelers at Digida pork joint and passengers in the Swift bus were lucky because the people who planted the explosives were still amateurs.

“These guys (terror suspects) used a mobile phone to detonate the Digida pork joint explosive,” our source said. “They had tied using phone batteries on it. What they used to detonate these IEDs was perfect but we believe the propellants were insufficient to cause huge impact.”

For the Swift bus explosion, the alleged suicide bomber Isaac Matovu alias Muzafaru, who was the only person who perished in the incident, had a mobile phone designed like a lighter which was used to detonate the suicide vest he was wearing.

One confirmed dead in another explosion on passenger bus in Uganda
Uganda Police Force have cordoned off a section of the road at Lungala, Mpigi district on Kampala-Masaka highway after an explosion was reported on a bus

Nevertheless, police spokesperson Fred Enanga said he had not yet seen the report regarding propellants and detonators used in the two explosions.

But Enanga said CMI, ISO, CI, and CID had arrested 48 people linked to the blasts.

Below are the signs to look out for, for suicide bombers as listed by security agencies after being tipped by Israel security and intelligence experts

  • The appearance of being nervous. They may seem pre-occupied or have a blank stare.
  • Focused intent and vigilance. Such an acute focus may result in no response to verbal or other contact.
  • An awkward attempt to blend in. Behavior will seem odd or overtly out of place.
  • Avoidance behaviors towards authority. If security is present, a suicide bomber will try to be inconspicuous.
  • May be praying fervently to him or herself. This gives the appearance of talking and whispering to someone. Keep in mind that many people talk to themselves, thus this behavior in and of itself, may have little meaning. Further either of these behaviors could be confused with speaking on a cellphone.
Eyewitnesses of Digida Pork Joint explosion in Kampala narrates harrowing ordeal
  • Behavior may be consistent with that of a person without any future like giving away things of value, buying one-way ticket, or being unconcerned about receiving change for a purchase.
  • Profuse sweating that is out of synch with weather conditions.
  • Walking deliberately toward a specific target or object, often pushing the way through a crowd or armed barriers.  This may show a high degree of focus or intent, especially if the target is in sight.
  • Lack of mobility of the lower torso, may cause upper body stiffness. This is due to the bomb device that is strapped to the body. The increased use of backpacks may reduce or eliminate this element.
  • In order to disguise the appearance, a beard may have been recently shaved or the hair cut short. There is a noticeable difference in the skin color of the recently shaved area.
  • To smell better when going to paradise, the suicide bomber may use herbal or floral scented water.