President Museveni has described the Friday dawn attack on a UPDF forward operating base in Somalia by Al Shabaab militants as unfortunate but noted the Ugandan army will retaliate.
In a late Saturday evening statement, Museveni said there was panic on the side of the Ugandan soldiers and this could have caused problems.
“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,” Museveni said.
The Friday early morning attack targeted a UPDF forward operating base in Bulo Marer, 120 kilometers (75 miles) southwest of the capital Mogadishu.
Al-Shabab claimed in a statement that it carried out suicide bomb attacks and killed 137 Ugandan soldiers whereas others were taken as prisoners of war.
However, these claims have not yet been independently verified by anyone.
In the first detailed statement about the incident, the president said there was panic among the soldiers when the attack happened.
“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.”
He explained that Ugandan unmanned aerial vehicles also known as drones were watching the whole scenarios from the sky and were directing fire.
“Many of the soldiers withdrew to the next FOB, nine kilometres away. The terrorists were many, about 800 or so according to the UAVs.”
The president said this was a missed opportunity for the UPDF to annihilate the insurgents but noted that nonetheless, they will regret their actions.
“The operations are continuing and they will regret their actions. Condolences to the country and the families of those who died.”
Just like the earlier statements by the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia, the president’s statement too was devoid of the number of casualties.
Museveni however , said the Chief of Defence Forces has set up a board of inquiry to investigate the matter and that at a later time will come up with 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.”