Uganda says 54 soldiers killed in Somalia attack

Kampala (Caasimada Online) – Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni reported that a total of 54 Ugandan peacekeepers tragically lost their lives last week in one of Al-Shabab’s most severe recent assaults, as the militant group attacked an African Union base in the conflict-ridden nation of Somalia.

Museveni disclosed the grievous loss during a meeting with members of his governing National Resistance Movement party, revealing one of the most significant military death tolls suffered by African Union members to date.

Al-Shabab, a group committed to a lethal insurgency against Somalia’s tenuous central government for over a decade, took responsibility for the May 26th attack.

The militants falsely claimed to have overpowered the base and killed 137 soldiers, a common exaggeration tactic used by Al-Shabab for propaganda purposes.

Local residents and a Somali military commander revealed that the attack commenced with the detonation of a car bomb at the base in Bulo Marer, located 120 kilometers southwest of Mogadishu. A subsequent gunfight ensued, painting a vivid picture of the harrowing encounter.

Admissions and accusations

President Museveni had previously criticized the response of some soldiers who “did not perform as expected and panicked” as the base came under attack by an estimated 800 assailants.

He identified Maj. Oluka and Maj. Obbo was the commander who ordered a retreat, stating they would face court-martial charges for their actions.

Despite these criticisms, Museveni praised the resilience of his troops, emphasizing their successful recapture of the base after initial withdrawal.

The African Union force known as ATMIS, a key ally in the fight against Al-Shabab, has yet to disclose the death toll from the incident.

In response to the pre-dawn raid, ATMIS dispatched helicopter gunships for reinforcement.

Further illustrating international support, the United States disclosed that an airstrike was conducted near the besieged base a day after the assault.

The US Africa Command announced that this action resulted in the destruction of weapons unlawfully obtained by Al-Shabab fighters.

Struggle against Al-Shabab

This tragic incident underscores the enduring security issues in Somalia, a nation grappling with decades of conflict and natural disasters.

Last year, Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud declared an “all-out war” against Al-Shabab, urging Somalis to aid in eliminating the jihadist group, derogatorily referred to as “bedbugs.”

With the support of ATMIS and US airstrikes, pro-government forces have reclaimed significant territories in recent months.

Despite these achievements, Al-Shabab continues launching deadly attacks against military and civilian targets.

The ATMIS force, composed of troops from Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Kenya, is working towards handing over security responsibilities to Somalia’s army and police by 2024.

However, according to UN Chief Antonio Guterres, the escalating attacks from Al-Shabab, causing 2022 to be the deadliest year for civilians in Somalia since 2017, poses a significant hurdle to achieving this goal.