KAMPALA – President Yoweri Museveni has claimed that some of the UPDF soldiers panicked when Al-Shabaab militants attacked their Forward Operational Base on Friday – leading to a loss of lives.
“Some of the soldiers there did not perform as expected and panicked, which disorganised them and the Al-Shabaab took advantage of that to overran the base and destroy some of the equipment,” he said in a statement.
Museveni explained: “The panic, it seems, was totally unnecessary because, in fact, both the anti-tank ditch and our soldiers had destroyed the three vehicles of explosives outside the FOB. The suicide bombers or whatever were forced to blow themselves up before they gained entry into the base. Moreover, our UAVs were watching the whole scenario from up in the sky and directing fire.”
President Museveni said UPDF will set up a Board of Inquiry – BOI and the full facts would be established, including the details of the casualties.
“This unfortunate incident should be used to remind all those concerned, that operations in Somalia and other theatres are combat missions and not welfare missions where you can access UN allowances. It is criminal for anybody involved, to send into such a theatre soldiers who are either not suited for that mission or not properly prepared for it,” warned Museveni.
As Museveni made the revelation – sounding warnings to whoever might have been involved – the Uganda People’s Defence Forces- UPDF Land Forces Commander, Lt Gen Kayanja Muhanga rushed to Somalia to assess the situation.
Al-Shabaab issued a statement on Friday boasting how it had raided Uganda forces’ base at the outskirts of the town of Buula-Mareer, Islamic Wilaayah of Lower Shabeele killing 137 soldiers.
“By the grace of Allah, the Mujahideen successfully overran the base, securing its perimeters and taking control of its defence pots. Initial reports from the battlefield indicate the death of 137 crusaders, the destruction and seizure of military vehicles,” claimed Al-Shabaab.
However, Brig Felix Kulayigye, the UPDF Spokesperson, without giving numbers of the deaths or injuries said: “…a team of military officials led by Lt Gen Muhanga has been dispatched to Somalia to ascertain the circumstances under, which the attack happened and devise the way forward.”
Brig Kulayigye’s statement reaffirmed that of the African Transition Mission in Somalia -ATMIS which also confirmed an attack on Ugandan forces but did not give details of the deaths or injuries.
“Fighting between the terrorists and ATMIS soldiers ensued. Reinforcement from ATMIS Aviation Unit and allies managed to destroy weapons in possession of the withdrawing Al-Shabaab militants,” read in part the ATMIS statement.
The attack and resultant causalities is most likely to be largest killing of ATMIS forces, which metamorphosed from the African Mission in Somalia – AMISOM in a single assault.
UPDF and its counterparts from Kenya, Burundi, Ethiopia, and Djibouti should have completely left Somalia at the end of 2021.
However, the mission was changed from AMISOM to ATMIS. UPDF said there was a need to empower Somalia’s National Army through training, command, intelligence, and response to terror attacks.