Museveni Says UPDF Soldiers Panicked When Al-Shabaab Attacked

Presdent Museveni has indicated that there were mistakes made by a company of UPDF soldiers when Al-Shabaab rebels attacked their Forward Operational Base leading to a loss of lives on Friday.

“Some of the soldiers there did not perform as expected and panicked, which disorganized them and the Al-Shabaab took advantage of that to overran the base and destroy some of the equipment,” he said in a statement.

He explained that, “The panic, it seems, was totally unnecessary because, in fact, both the anti-tank ditch and our soldiers had destroyed the three vehicles of explosives outside the FOB. 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.”

President Museveni said UPDF will  set up a Board of Inquiry (BOI) and the full facts will come out, including the details of the casualties.

“This 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 you can access UN allowances. 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,” Museveni warned.

Meanwhile, the Commander of Uganda People’s Defence Forces- UPDF land forces, Lt Gen Kayanja Muhanga has rushed to Somalia after the attack.

On Friday, the Al-Shabaab issued a statement claiming it had raided Uganda forces’ base at the outskirts of the town of Buula-Mareer, Islamic Wilaayah of Lower Shabeele killing 137 soldiers.

“By the grace of Allah, the Mujahideen successfully overran the base, securing its perimeters and taking control of its defense pots. initial reports from the battlefield indicate the death of 137 crusaders, the destruction and seizure of military vehicles,” Al-Shabaab claimed.

However, Brig Felix Kulayigye, the UPDF Spokesperson, without giving numbers of the deaths or injuries said: “…a team of military officials led by Lt Gen Muhanga has been dispatched to Somalia to ascertain the circumstances under which the attack happened and devise the way forward.”

Brig Kulayigye’s statement is not different from that issued by the African Transition Mission in Somalia -ATMIS which also confirmed an attack on Ugandan forces but did not give details of the deaths or injuries.

“Fighting between the terrorists and ATMIS soldiers ensued. Reinforcement from ATMIS Aviation Unit and allies managed to destroy weapons in possession of the withdrawing Al-Shabaab militants,” ATMIS statement read in part.

If this is true, it’ll be the biggest killing of ATMIS forces which metamorphosed from the African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) in a single attack. UPDF and its counterparts from Kenya, Burundi, Ethiopia, and Djibouti were supposed to completely withdraw from Somalia at the end of 2021.

However, the mission was changed from AMISOM to ATMIS. UPDF said there was a need to empower Somalia’s National Army through training, command, intelligence, and response to terror attacks.

Below is Museveni’s full statement:

Greetings. Things are moving well on a number of fronts. I have concluded a tour on wealth creation issues in the Masaka zone.Masaka zone is doing well with coffee, bananas, palm oil and the dairy industry.

However, in the night of Thursday, at the 11th hour of the night and ten minutes (what the Europeans call 5.30am of Friday), we had an unfortunate incident in Somalia where our force has operated successfully, ever since 2007.

In the area of Bulo-Mareer, there was an FOB (Forward Operational Base) manned by a company of UPDF soldiers. Those defences are quite strong although they are guarded by light weapons. There were two tanks, two 14.5mm anti- air-craft guns and a 107mm Katyusha rocket launcher. Some of the soldiers there did not perform as expected and panicked, which disorganized them and the Al-Shabaab took advantage of that to overran the base and destroy some of the equipment.

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

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. Many of the soldiers withdrew to the next FOB, nine kilometres away.

The terrorists were many, about 800 or so according to the UAVs. Hence, it was a missed opportunity, to annihilate them. The operations are continuing and they will regret their actions. Condolences to the country and the families of those who died.

This 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 you can access UN allowances.

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.

Signed: Yoweri K. Museveni General (rtd) Ssabalwanyi

Source: THE INDEPENDENT & URN

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