Mogadishu, Somalia (AFP)- In a horrific incident that represents one of the deadliest attacks by al-Shabaab jihadists in recent times, more than 50 Ugandan peacekeepers lost their lives when the militants attacked the African Union (AU) in Somalia last week. attacked the base of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni confirmed the tragic loss, calling it one of the worst attacks in the war-torn country.
President Museveni announced the sad news in a Twitter post late on Saturday, saying, “We have found the lifeless bodies of 54 fallen soldiers, including a commander.” Museveni shared the information during a meeting with members of his ruling National Resistance Movement party, the presidency told AFP on Sunday.
The attack was the deadliest since the AU force, backed by pro-government forces known as ATMIS, launched an offensive against al-Shabaab last August. was Acknowledgment of such high military casualties among African Union members is an unusual occurrence.
Al-Shabaab, a militant group that has been waging a deadly decade-long insurgency against Somalia’s weak central government, claimed responsibility for the May 26 attack. They asserted that they had successfully captured the base and killed 137 soldiers. However, it is worth noting that al-Shabaab is known to exaggerate its claims of battlefield gains for propaganda purposes, and the governments of countries that contribute troops to the AU force Deaths are rarely confirmed.
According to accounts provided to AFP by local residents and a Somali military commander, the militants drove an explosives-laden vehicle into the base in Bulu Marar, about 120 kilometers (75 miles) southwest of the capital Mogadishu. . This led to a fierce exchange of fire between the peacekeepers and the attackers.
President Museveni had earlier admitted that during the attack, some soldiers did not perform as expected and panicked in front of about 800 attackers. This led to a return to the nearest base, nine kilometers (six miles) away. Museveni expressed frustration, calling it a “missed opportunity to eliminate” al-Qaeda-linked rebels. He singled out two commanders in particular, Major Oluka and Major Obo, who ordered the retreat, and announced that they would face charges in a court-martial. However, he also praised the resilience of the troops after reorganizing themselves and the successful recapture of the base.
ATMIS has not yet released official figures on the number of casualties but confirmed sending a helicopter gunship as reinforcements after the pre-dawn raid. The US also carried out an airstrike near the base a day after the attack, targeting and destroying weapons and equipment illegally obtained by al-Shabaab fighters. US Africa Command did not provide specific details on when and where the weapons were acquired.
The attack serves as a stark reminder of the ongoing security challenges facing Somalia as it tries to recover from decades of conflict and natural disasters. Last year, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud declared an “all-out war” against al-Shabaab, calling on Somalis to help eliminate the jihadist group he called “bedbugs.” Despite recent territorial gains by the army and militias in central Somalia known as “Makawisli”, backed by ATMIS and US airstrikes, the militants continue to attack civilian and military targets with lethal force.
Al-Shabaab’s deadliest attack since the start of the offensive claimed 121 lives in October last year, as two car bombs hit the Ministry of Education in Mogadishu. Additionally, in May 2022, militants stormed an AU base, triggering heavy firefights.