Madrassas in Uganda shut down over alleged links to Islamic extremists

UPDF soldiers and police forces patrol streets in Kampala with a tactical operation vehicle on July 3, 2014.
UPDF soldiers and police forces patrol streets in Kampala with a tactical operation vehicle on July 3, 2014. PETER BUSOMOKE/AFP/Getty Images

KAMPALA, Uganda – Five madrassas in Uganda have been shut down over allegations they are training students to become extremists, a Ugandan police official said Monday. A Muslim leader denied the allegations.

The Islamic schools targeted for closure have been training children to become fighters in a rebel group opposed to Uganda’s government, Patrick Onyango, a spokesman for police in the Ugandan capital of Kampala, told The Associated Press.

“They are brainwashing the children, training them to become recruits in a rebel group,” he said. “The plan is that when they reach the right age they will be taken to become rebels.”

He said three of the schools ordered shut are located in Uganda’s central region while two of them are in the east.

Uganda’s Daily Monitor newspaper reported Monday that a senior Ugandan Muslim leader, Kassim Nakibinge, had criticized the police’s actions, saying Islamic schools are being unfairly targeted by the authorities. He reportedly accused the police of “hiding behind security to close our (madrassas).”

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Local police link the madrassas to the Allied Democratic Forces, a Congo-based armed group whose fugitive Ugandan leader is wanted by Interpol over terror allegations. Jamil Mukulu, who is widely believed to be hiding in eastern Congo, has also been sanctioned by the U.S. over his alleged role in violence there.

Ugandan authorities have been warning of the growing threat of home-grown Islamic extremism that stems in part from Uganda’s military involvement in Somalia, where Ugandan forces are part of an African Union force fighting al-Shabab extremists.

At least five Ugandans are currently on trial for their alleged roles in the July 2010 bombings in Kampala that killed more than 70 people who were watching the 2010 soccer World Cup final on TV. Although responsibility for that attack was claimed by al-Shabab, Ugandan officials say some Ugandans were recruited to direct that attack.

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