KAMPALA. Al-Shabaab insurgents yesterday morning attacked a Ugandan army base in Somalia, killing an unspecified number of soldiers.
Although various accounts gave differing numbers of the dead, the deputy army spokesperson, Maj Henry Obbo, did not say how many Ugandans had been killed at the UPDF-manned base of Janale, about 90km southeast of Mogadishu.
A statement issued by Amisom yesterday evening said: “Given the complex nature of the attack, Amisom is currently verifying the number of casualties and extent of the damage.”
This is the deadliest attack against African Union troops from Ugandan contingent ever since Uganda deployed in Somalia in March 2007, military sources say.
“Whereas we do not have the mandate to speak for Amisom operations, we are aware there was an attack by al-Shabaab at 05:30hrs this morning using car bombs to breach the defence,” Maj Obbo said.
The attackers detonated explosives loaded in vehicles, killing the guards at the quarter guard before entering the Amisom base.
Amisom dismissed claims by the militants that the base was still under the control of al Shabaab. “Reports that the base has been taken over and our weapons captured are false,” the AU peacekeeping force said on its Twitter feed.
Sources in Janale yesterday told Daily Monitor that gunshots were still being heard in the afternoon as the African Union troops continued hunting the attackers.
The attack comes exactly one year after the al Shabaab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane was killed by Americans in an airstrike in Somalia.
Al-Shabaab claimed in a statement yesterday that it was a revenge attack against AU troops for “raping” Somali women, an allegation Maj Obbo dismissed.
“Rape is a war crime. Whatever we do in Somalia is under scrutiny by African Union and other agencies. Our soldiers cannot commit such crime because they go through pre-deployment training which covers human rights,” he said.
Maj Obbo said the attacks would not deter UPDF and Amisom from continue to fight for peace.
“The UPDF will continue as a partner with Amisom and work with the Somali people to promote peace in Somalia,” he said.
The Special Representative of the African Union Commission (SRCC) for Somalia and Head of Amisom, Ambassador Maman Sidikou, condemned the attack as reprehensible and praised the heroism of the peacekeepers who were killed during this attack, noting that they have paid a worthy price while serving the people of Somalia.
On September 17, 2009, al-Shabaab attacked the African Union headquarters manned by the UPDF and killed six, including the Burundian deputy Amisom force commander, Maj Gen Juvenal Niyoyunguriza. Maj Gen Nathan Mugisha, the then overall commander was also injured in the head.
In 2010, the insurgents attacked Somalia presidential residence which was guard of the Amisom. They were repulsed but they killed four Ugandan soldiers. In the same year, they attacked soldiers guarding the airport but they were repulsed.
On December 25, 2014, they attacked AU senior officers’ mess at the Amisom headquarter in Mogadishu as the soldiers were having lunch.