Fear Factory: When Terrorists Killed 74 People For Watching the World Cup

Written By Salvatore Bono

On July 11, 2010, 46.4 percent of the globe tuned in to watch the World Cup final between Spain and the Netherlands as it took place in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Read: Playing For Peace: How Drogba Brought A Civil War to a Stop in the Ivory Coast

As just under half the globe’s population were innocently and passionately watching the first World Cup final match ever to be played in the continent, some came under attack because their eyes were simply fixed on a television screen.

In the East African country of Uganda, terrorists from Somalia known as Al-Shabaab carried out attacks in the city of Kampala killing 74 and leaving over 70 injured just because they were watching the World Cup.


While a civil war raged in Somalia between terrorist groups like Al-Shabaab and the government for most of the 90s and into the early 2000s, opposition forces grew stronger. Nearby countries like Uganda tried their best to help the Somalian government and for that, the people of those nations giving aide and assistance became a target by the terrorist groups.

When South Africa hosted the first World Cup on the continent, Al-Shabaab, with the backing of Al Queda, looked to seek revenge knowing when the assisting nations were their most vulnerable – the grand finale.

Uganda did not qualify for the 2010 World Cup but that didn’t stop the people of the African nation from soaking in matches and taking pride in their continent hosting the games for the very first time. Like most countries around the world, Uganda is soccer crazy and it didn’t matter that they did not have a horse in the race, they were still going to enjoy the world’s game.

As revelers hung out in local bars and restaurants in the city of Kampala, they attended to forget about war, personal problems, and looked to escape in the beauty of match between two of the best footballing nations of that time.

Read: 2010: Wesley Sneijder’s Lost Year

Whether you were in New York City, Rome, London, Cape Town or Kampala the scenery of beer, food, good company — the corner stone for any spectator – was the same. Yet, for the innocent of the Ugandan city, including people from other countries like Ireland, America, Kenya, India, Ethiopia, Eritrea, the atmosphere went from normal to terror in seconds.

While watching the match, a blast went off inside an Ethiopian restaurant and moments later on the other side of town; a second blast went off at a rugby stadium where people paid a little money to watch the game on a big screen in a big venue. Two suicide bombers attacked the revelers and places of escape all in the name of revenge and because the Western world was engaged in viewing the biggest sporting event in the globe.

A third bomb was discovered later in the night but it failed to detonate.

A witness told BBC: “I just heard the bomb. In fact, I was blacked out, I didn’t know anything. I was just down on the grass, I didn’t know anything until when I gained consciousness, then I started now, crawling, coming out.”

“We were just watching football when the two bombs went off,” Brian Bomakech, a Ugandan fan at the rugby field, told The New York Times.

Al-Shabaab and Al Queda proudly took responsibility for the attack in Uganda’s capitol city. Their revenge on the country may have come but it did not defeat the spirit of the Ugandan people as the innocent were avenged.

Soccer’s Biggest Opponent

It has been said that radical Islamic terrorists do not appreciate when the world comes together to watch something as special as a World Cup. It interferes and goes against their agenda. For them, it seems if it brings joy to people of various backgrounds, creeds, religions, it should be condemned.

It has been seen time and time again after the 2010 attack on viewers in Uganda. In the November 2016, during the attacks on Paris, France, ISIL bombed the Stade du France during a friendly game between the French national team and Germany. That same year, ISIL tried to attacked the Israeli soccer team during a game in Kosovo but their plan was foiled.

For the radical extremists soccer and its fans are the infidels because it belongs to the Western world.

Read: The Eternal Captain: How Mandela Brought Africa Its First World Cup


In the days after the bloodshed and bombings, 60 people were arrested in connection with the planning and plotting of the attack on Uganda’s capitol. A majority of the suspects hailed from Somalia and one came from nearby Kenya, another from Tanzania.

Following the attacks, world leaders from countries like Vietnam, Chile, Dominican Republic, the U.K., and America, expressed their support for the people of Uganda and said they would lend a hand in catching the terrorists. U.S. President Obama said the terrorists didn’t value “African life as valuable in and of itself.”

In 2016, 13 men said to be involved of the attacks were tried. Seven were sentenced to life in prison in Uganda after the court determined they were the masterminds of the attacks. The rest were acquitted.


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