Uganda has not yet confirmed the death toll in Thursday’s attack on Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces personnel serving in Somalia, although al-Shabaab extremists say more than 130 UPDF members died.
The attack occurred in the Lower Shabelle region of Somalia, about 120 kilometers southwest of Mogadishu, where Ugandan troops serve with an African Union peacekeeping mission, the UPDF said. Lt. Gen. Kayanja Muhanga of UPDF is leading an investigation into exactly what happened.
President Yoweri Museveni, in a statement issued Saturday, said the attack on Bulo-Mareer appeared to cause a panic among the Ugandan forces despite the base being well-equipped and defended. Some 800 fighters were involved in attacking the Ugandans, leading many of the UPDF soldiers to withdraw to their next base nine kilometers away.
The incident “disorganized them and the al-Shabaab took advantage of that to overrun the base and destroy some of the equipment,” said Museveni.
The precise cause of the disorganization was unclear, the president said, because it appeared Ugandan forces had already destroyed three vehicles of explosives outside of the base. He called it a missed opportunity to annihilate the al-Shabaab fighters.
Although Museveni issued condolences to the families of those lost, he also offered sharp criticism of the UPDF response and said it was “criminal for anybody involved” to have forces placed there who were unprepared for their mission.
Image: Museveni file