BY Emma Mutaizibwa |Obsrever UG.
Fleeing al-Shabab militias have killed four UPDF soldiers in Baldogule as the Ugandans advanced towards the Baidoa outpost, one of the last bastions of the insurgents. Capt Henry Obbo, spokesman of the Uganda contingent in Somalia, told The Observer on phone yesterday that the ambush, using a bomb which detonated, took place as the UPDF advanced towards Baidoa.
“It’s unfortunate and we send condolences to the bereaved. [The slain UPDF soldiers] died pursuing peace for humanity. We shall always honour them,” he said.
Obbo declined to name the dead soldiers, saying they would inform their families first. The UPDF puts the official number of soldiers killed in Somalia since it deployed there in 2007 at about 80, but independent accounts talk of many more.
Obbo said the latest deaths of UPDF soldiers will not deter the African Union’s Mission in Somalia (Amisom) from its goal of defeating the pockets of resistance still holding out.
“Right now we are in the field still pursuing them. We have already moved 130km of the 240km towards Baidoa. We have already crossed from Shabelle region to Bay region, where we shall continue to hunt the terrorists,” Obbo said, promising to send to The Observer a detailed report on their operations.
In May, Amisom launched a joint military operation with the Somali National Army, code-named ‘Operation Free Shabelle’ with the objective of securing the Afgooye corridor, home to a large concentration of internally displaced people.
Operations are still ongoing to secure the market town of Elasha Biyaha. Harabsca, a trading centre located 26km from Mogadishu, has also been secured. We have been informed that the Amisom forces yesterday crossed the Shabelle river and secured all the major roads leading into and out of Afgooye town.
The town is strategically located 30km from Mogadishu, and controlling routes to the port town of Marka, as well as the towns of Baidoa and Jowhar. Leaders of the Al Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabab are believed to have fled Afgooye town, which was one of their main bases.
Uganda has well over 5,000 troops in the United Nations-backed Amisom, meant to recreate the failed state alongside soldiers from Burundi, Kenya and Djibouti.
Uganda was the first country to deploy troops in 2007 in the country’s capital Mogadishu, where they controlled just a few blocks, with the rest of the city in the hands of the al-Shabab militants.