Museveni: Al-Shabaab killed 54 Ugandan soldiers in Somalia attack

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni speaks with Nikkei in Kampala on March 16. (Photo by Presidential Press Unit/Tony Rujuta)

MOGADISHU, Somalia - At least 54 Uganda People's Defense Forces [UPDF] were killed in the recent attack waged by Al-Shabaab militants in southern Somalia, Uganda President Yoweri Museveni has confirmed while insisting that the Al-Qaida linked group will "regret their actions" over the unfortunate incident.

Last week's attack against African Union Transition Mission in Somalia [ATMIS] peacekeepers was the worst in as many months, with the militants completely overrunning Bulo Marer Forward Operating Base. Reports from the town indicate resilient UPDF soldiers have already regained control over Bulo Marer from Al-Shabaab.

The recapturing of the base, he said, was necessary to motivate the troops who are working hard for the stabilization of Somalia. Museveni thanked the soldiers for responding swiftly despite the unprecedented loss inflicted on them by the Al-Shabaab militants, who are still dominant in central Somalia.

“Our soldiers demonstrated remarkable resilience and reorganized themselves, resulting in the recapture of the base by Tuesday,” the president said.

Al Shabaab fighters had targeted the base early last Friday in Bulamarer, 130 km [80 miles] southwest of the capital Mogadishu. Uganda did not immediately release the data on affected soldiers last week but the pressure from home may have motivated Museveni to reveal the number of deaths.

On their part, Al-Shabaab had claimed over 137 UPDF soldiers was killed in the raid, which had over 221 soldiers at the time of the attack, a claim disputed by Uganda and ATMIS. Al-Shabaab Finance Controller Mahad Karate claimed over 200 Ugandan soldiers were killed in the attack.

Al Shabaab, which has said it carried out suicide bomb attacks and killed 137 soldiers at the base, has been fighting since 2006 to replace Somalia's Western-backed government with its own rule based on a strict interpretation of Islamic law.

The attack comes as the ATMIS prepares for the drawdown of troops, with over 2000 soldiers expected to leave the Horn of Africa nation starting this month. The Somali National Army is being prepared to take over security responsibilities once the foreign troops are from the country.


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