A Somali-based jihadist group has claimed responsibility for the attack FILE PHOTO. © LUIS TATO / AFP
At least 54 African Union (AU) peacekeepers died in a late May assault by al-Shabaab extremists on a base in Somalia housing Ugandan troops, Uganda’s president said on Saturday.
“We discovered the lifeless bodies of 54 fallen soldiers, including a commander,” Yoweri Museveni said in a statement posted to social media, referring to the May 26 dawn raid. He admitted last week that there had been Ugandan casualties in the attack, but had not specified the numbers.
Al-Shabaab, a Somali-based Salafi-jihadist militant organization which has waged an insurgency for more than a decade against Somalia’s western-backed government, has claimed responsibility for the assault. The group said it killed 137 soldiers in the attack, which involved a suicide-bombing.
The AFP news agency reported, citing local residents and a Somali military commander, that the militants drove a car filled with explosives into a military facility in Bulo Marer, around 80 miles south-west of the capital, Mogadishu.
Ugandan students protest following US threats over anti-gay law
A gunfight ensued, leading to one of the most significant death tolls in a string of violent incidents since pro-government forces supported by the AU, known as the African Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS), began an offensive against al-Shabaab last August.
The ATMIS force, whose members are estimated to number around 20,000, plays a more proactive role in Somali security operations than the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), which it replaced. It is comprised of troops from Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya, and has troops deployed in south and central Somalia.
ATMIS plans to pass on its duties to Somalia’s army and police forces by 2024.
Museveni added in his statement that an initial panicked reaction to the attack contributed to the number of deaths in the AU ranks. “The mistake was made by two commanders, Maj. Oluka and Maj. Obbo, who ordered the soldiers to retreat,” he said, also stating that the pair had been apprehended and would face court martial charges.
However, he added that “our soldiers demonstrated remarkable resilience and reorganised themselves, resulting in the recapture of the base.” (RT)