Mosques in Masaka district are under tight police and army surveillance, after a suspected rebel recruit named them as recruitment centres for the rebel Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a rebel group alleged to have bases in eastern DR Congo.
Last week, Sembabule police arrested a man from Lwebitakuli trading centre on a tip-off from residents who found his activities in the area suspicious. Police sources identified the man as Rashid Musa, although his relatives know him as Bashir Kibirige. The man was picked from a lodging facility at Lwebitakuli trading centre.
Rashid, according to a source, had gone to several mosques asking for financial assistance. He told Muslims he had just been released from prison, and had nothing to eat. But their suspicions were raised when he entered a bar to play pool instead. A security official revealed they had been trailing the man for sometime after they got information linking him to the ADF.
This source told The Observer that Rashid was first sighted at Kyabakuza in Masaka sporting a long beard. He had, however, shaved it off by the time of his arrest a few days later. After his arrest, Rashid has since named Hajji Muzamir Sserwanga, aka Ssankalewa - a taxi driver on Mateete - Masaka route, Hajji Rashid Musoke and Hajji Haruna Ssekitoleko as recruiting agents for the ADF.
The three were picked from their homes in Sembabule on Wednesday to help Police with investigations. They are alleged to have been doing their recruitment from mosques in Sembabule, Nyendo, Mbiriizi, Kyazanga and Mbarara.
In July, Defence Minister Dr Crispus Kiyonga warned against the recruitment of youths into the rebel ADF ranks. The minister, who was presiding at the silver jubilee celebrations of St John the Baptist Ssanje Catholic Parish in Rakai district, said the ADF rebels were massively recruiting youths from mainly the districts of Lwengo, Masaka and Iganga. He said 20 of the recruits had been intercepted in Bwera in Kasese.
According to statement recorded from Rashid, the recruits planned a series of bomb attacks in Sembabule, including Sembabule Health Centre IV and Bamu hospital; a private clinic in Mateete town council owned by Sembabule district Chairman Dr Elly Muhumuza. Also targeted was the Link bus that plies the Lwebitakuli-Kampala route.
However, Rashid's family has questioned their relative's testimony, insisting that he is of unsound mind and a known criminal.
"He knows them [suspects] very well, and couldn't fail to locate their residences. But he's a person we know to be having a mental problem who at times makes uncoordinated statements," his uncle Muhammad Ssekimpi said.
According to Ssekimpi, Rashid had just been released from Masaka prison where he served a two-year jail term for theft and had previously worked for one of the suspects, Hajji Rashid Musoke as a shamba boy.
The Southern Regional Police Commander Simon Peter Wafana declined to comment, referring us to the Armoured Brigade's Intelligence Officer, one Lt Agaba. However, Agaba also declined to comment, saying the police were better-placed.