Magistrate, Clerk Wounded By Courtroom Grenade
KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) _ Two men fired a pistol and lobbed a grenade in a crowded courtroom Thursday, seriously wounding the chief magistrate and his clerk and temporarily freeing the defendant, witnesses said.
The attack occurred Chief Magistrate John O’bwangamoi was conducting a preliminary hearing for an army sergeant charged with murder and robbery, the witnesses said.
Two unidentified men in civilian clothes staged the attack and then escaped in the confusion, according to the accounts. The defendant, Kere Omuge, also escaped, but police captured him about a mile from the court building in downtown Kampala.
O’bwangamoi was taken to Mulago Hospital and underwent surgery for wounds to his face, abdomen and both legs. His clerk, Alex Musoke, was hospitalized with a leg wound, hospital officials said. Both men were listed in serious condition. Details of the charges against Omuge were not immediately known, but the soldier had been brought to the courtroom from the maximum- security Luzira prison on the outskirts of the capital.
Witnesses, who refused to give their names, said two men suddenly approached the chief magistrate’s desk and one drew a pistol and fired a shot, but missed O’bwangamoi. The second man then threw a grenade, which exploded near O’bwangamoi’s chair.
Witnesses said the gunshot sent spectators fleeing from the courtroom in panic.
Omuge and the two attackers fled during the confusion. Police, who converged on the court building from their headquarters about 100 yards away, apprehended the defendant after a short chase, witnesses said.
Police declined to comment on the attack.
Officials said it was the most serious assault against a Ugandan jurist since September 1972, when Chief Justice Benedicto Kiwanuka was dragged from his chambers by soldiers of dictator Idi Amin and was not seen again.
Amin seized power from President Milton Obote in a 1971 military coup and was driven into exile by rebels and troops from neighboring Tanzania in April 1979. Obote returned to power in elections held in December 1980 after a period of interim governments.