Uganda sends land forces chief to Somalia after deadly attack on troops

updf army

Ugandan soldiers search for explosive devices next to their base in Ceeljaale, Somalia on September 19, 2019. 

Photo credit: Tina Smole | AFP

The Ugandan military on Saturday dispatched a team led by the Chief of Land Forces (CLF), Lt Gen Kayanja Muhanga, to Mogadishu, to assess the circumstances under which the country's troops were attacked in a dawn raid on Friday.

The Friday attack at Buulo Mareer base in Somalia killed at least 50 soldiers, with more feared dead.

In a statement on Saturday, the Ministry of Defence, and Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF) spokesperson Brig-Gen Felix Kulayigye said the team will “devise the way forward.”

He did not give further details but added that the attack “will not deter our commitment to ATMIS mandate of ensuring African peace and stability."

The Somali militant group Al-Shabaab overran Buulo Mareer Forward Operating Base (FOB), in coordinated attacks using car laden explosives and gun fire, and carried out a massacre of Ugandan troops that sent shockwaves in Kampala.

In the 15 years since it deployed to Somalia, UPDF has not suffered such a heavy casualty, which sources said includes senior commanders, with dead overall anywhere between 50 according to some security intelligence accounts, and 137 – a figure that Al-Shabaab claimed within hours of the attack.

The Al-Shabaab took prisoner several soldiers whose fate and location remain unknown, charged a large cache of weapons and ammunition, and set ablaze several AU labelled tanks and infantry fighting vehicles within the base, located 120 kilometres in Lower Shabelle region, south west of Mogadishu.

The FOB is manned by troops from UPDF’s Uganda Battle Group (UGABAG) 38 which deployed in Somalia last month to start its tour of duty under the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS).

Lt-Gen Muhanga, a veteran of the many operations, including Somali combat fields battling the Al-Shabaab, currently holds the third highest ranking office in Uganda’s military, and the 5000 UPDF troops deployed in Somalia fall under his command.