Museveni blames 'panicked' soldiers after al-Shabaab overruns military base in Somalia

Uganda people’s Defence Forces are part of the African Union peace keeping force in the lawless Somalia. [File, Standard]

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni now says the ‘panic’ by Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF), gave the al-Shabaab militants an advantage to overrun its military base in Somalia.

Museveni in a statement after the deadly attack said the Forward Operational Bas in Bulo-Maree is manned by a strong company of the UPDF soldiers, although guarded by light weapons.

The Friday attack is said to have left at least 50 soldiers dead according to various security intelligence accounts although the militia group put the figure at 137.

Uganda Military deployed a team of land forces to assess the circumstances under which the base was raided.

Brig-General Felix Kulayigye said as the team assess to advise on way forward, the attack will however not deter UPDF’s commitment to ATIMIS mandate of ensuring peace and stability in the region.

Bt Museveni said there were two tanks, two 14.5mm anti- air-craft guns and a 107mm Katyusha rocket launcher at the base.

“Some of the soldiers there did not perform as expected and ‘panicked’, which disorganised them and the Al-Shabaab took advantage of that to overran the base and destroy some of the equipment,” Museveni said.

He said the panic, it seems, was totally unnecessary because both the anti-tank ditch and the soldiers had destroyed the 3 vehicles of explosives outside the FOB.

According to him, the suicide bombers or whatever, were forced to blow themselves up before they gained entry into the base.

“Moreover, our UAVs were watching the whole scenario from up in the sky and directing fire. The CDF has set up a Board of Inquiry (BOI) and the full facts will come out, including the details of the casualties,”he said.

Museveni said the raid saw many of the soldiers withdraw to the next FOB, nine kilometres away after they were overpowered by over 800 militants.

“This was a missed opportunity, to annihilate them. The operations are continuing and they will regret their actions,” he said.

While sending a message of condolence to the affected families, Museveni said, “The unfortunate incident should be used to remind all those concerned, that operations in Somalia and other theatres, are combat missions and not welfare missions where they can access UN allowances.”

He added, “It is criminal for anybody involved, to send into such a theatre soldiers who are either not suited for that mission or not properly prepared for it. Details will come out after the BOI has finished its work.”

Since Uganda deployed its troops in Somalia in 2007, it has never suffered such a deadly attack on its base.

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