Explosions as Ugandan forces battle attackers in Bulo Marer, Somalia
The Ugandan military says it is investigating an attack on an African Union military base manned by the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) in Bulo Marer town in Somalia on Friday morning.
UPDF spokesperson Felix Kulayigye told Nation.Africa that the attack was carried out by “foreign insurgents” who have since been identified by the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) as Al-Shabaab.
“This morning, #ATMIS FOB (Forward Operating Base) in Bulo Marer came under Al-Shabab attack. ATMIS forces are currently assessing the security situation. More information will be issued later.”
Reports indicate the attackers, suspected to be Al-Shabaab militants, attempted to storm the base located some 120 kilometres south of Mogadishu before a series of explosions rent the air.
There were no immediate reports on casualties but local sources said there was a heavy presence of militants in Bulo Marer town.
ATMIS (formerly Amisom) has suffered a series of heavy losses at the hands of Al-Shabaab in its 18-year campaign to restore stability in the war-wracked Horn of Africa nation.
Such attacks, experts say, are designed to hasten the departure of the mission, which has been fighting al-Shabaab for more than a decade.
Several troop-contributing countries, including Kenya, Uganda and Burundi, have lost soldiers and equipment to the rag-tag militia that has been seeking to impose Sharia rule.
On April 1, dozens of Ugandan soldiers were killed when the Islamist extremists attacked their base at Bulamarer town, 80 miles south-west of the capital, Mogadishu.
On May 4, 2022, at least 30 Burundian soldiers were killed and 20 others injured in an attack on El-Baraf AU base, about 150 kilometers north of Mogadishu.
On January 15, 2016, more than 141 Kenyan soldiers were killed and over a dozen taken hostage, in a battle that turned out to be the deadliest attack on peacekeepers in the history of modern peace operations.
On the fateful day, a a suicide bomber detonated a truck loaded with explosives at the base, the cue for hundreds of fighters clad in camouflage gear to attack.
The raid saw thousands upon thousands of bullets fired by some 300 Al-Shabaab militants in a brutal assault on Kenyan soldiers. The base was only reclaimed more than 72 hours later after several foiled attempts at reinforcement by the military in Kenya.
Preparing to leave
The U.N. Security Council, which authorised the new mission, gave it a mandate to reduce the threat posed by Al-Shabaab.
ATMIS is also required to support the capacity building of Somali security forces, and conduct a phased handover of security responsibilities to the Somali government. The mission's mandate runs through the end of 2024.
And after 18 years, ATMIS now says that they are preparing to withdraw 2,000 troops from the Horn of Africa nation by June 30, 2023, the first of three drawdowns in its transition plan.
That plan would see ATMIS troop levels decrease from the current 18,586 to just more than 9,500 at the end of the transition period in late 2024.
Somalia intends to gradually ramp up its force levels to about 23,000 and take over when ATMIS liquidates its assets and fully withdraws.
Last week, Somalia said that after three multinational peace missions, they were getting ready to take full control of its own security.
Report by Harry Misiko, Hillary Kimuyu and Laillah Mohamed in Nairobi, and Raymond Mujuni in Kampala.