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Gen. Muhanga moves on Al-Shabaab

Commander issues tough orders in area of recent attack in which UPDF were killed

Kampala, Uganda | AGENCIES | A few days since arriving in Bulo Mareer, the southeastern town 120 km away from the capital Mogadishu that was the scene of a deadly attack on an African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) manned by a contingent of Uganda soldiers, the Commander of the UPDF Land Forces, Lt. Gen. Kayanja Muhanga has set about reorganising the operation.

Gen. Muhanga has ordered a night curfew in the area and a total ban on the movement of vehicles and motorcycles. The move is designed to enable easier detection of movement of Al Shabaab militants in the area. The move will also deny the militants easy use of vehicles laden with bombs to attack ATMIs Forward Operating Bases (FOBs).

Gen. Muhanga also instructed commanders on the ground to work with local leaders when implementing the directives.

He also ordered curfew along the Marka-Afgoye Road that crosses Bulo Mareer, town and the Baralwe Road that connects to the Indian Ocean port of the same name farther down in the same Lower Shabelle region.

A report posted in Garowe News Online on June 01 said Gen. Muhanga issued the orders on May 29 together with Somali National Army (SNA) chief, Gen. Odowaa Yusuf Rageh.

The same report said several UPDF soldiers who escaped the attack with wounds are recovering well in the ATMIS Level II hospitals in the capital Mogadishu.

The report said the Commander of ATMIS, Lt. Gen. Sam Okiding, had visited them and commended them for their bravery in fighting off the Al-shabaab militants. He wished them quick recovery and also extended condolences to the relatives and friends of the soldiers who died during the attack.

Gen. Okiding was accompanied by the head of the United Nations Support Office in Mogadishu, Dr. Aisa Kirabo Kacyira and other ATMIS officials.

Attack details

The Al-Shabaab on May 26 raided an ATMIS military base manned by UPDF in Buulo Mareer, in which scores of Ugandan troops are thought to have been killed and wounded. Reports indicate that some UPDF were taken captive and military hardware was seized.

According to a report by Caleb Weiss of the FDD’s Long War Journal, the early morning involved at least three suicide car bombs launching at the UPDF leading to heavy blasts. Following that, hundreds of Al-Shabaab fighters then stormed the base and an intense firefight erupted.

Local residents reported hearing heavy gunfire and explosions throughout the morning. They also reported that Al-Shabaab briefly took control of the town itself, patrolling through the streets and looting and ransacking local Somali military posts.

Al-Shabaab claiming to have killed over 130 UPDF troops and capturing two alive. This number has not been confirmed by any other source.

Al-Shabaab released photos that show over a dozen bodies of killed Ugandan soldiers and two others in the process of being captured. Other pictures show complete destruction of the base, including tanks, armored vehicles, reinforced positions, and other areas of the base.

Pursuing Al-Shabaab

According to reports, the United State African Command (AFRICOM) which is responsible for U.S. military operations in Somalia has since launched several strike against Al-Shabaab in a bid to destroy “weapons and equipment unlawfully taken by al Shabaab fighters.

The move is a continuation of AFRICOM operation in Somali where it has launched nine strikes against Al-Shabaab since the beginning of 2023.

The U.S. military has been attacking Shabaab using air power as the Somali government has been attempting to wrest control of Shabaab-held territory in central and southern Somalia.

A majority of the strikes are what AFRICOM describes as “defensive,” meaning they were launched to support Somali forces as they were being attacked by Shabaab. However, in some cases, such as the strike against Maalim Osman, the strikes are described as counter-terror operations.

On May 20 AFRICOM targeted Maalim Osman, the emir of Shabaab’s external operations wing, in a drone strike near Shabaab’s southern stronghold of Jilib and reported that an unnamed Shabaab operative was assessed to have been wounded in the strike.

But just days after Shabaab overran the Ugandan military base, its fighters again raided another major outpost in central Somalia manned by the Somali Special Forces. The base in the central Galguduud Region targeted newly deployed troops freshly trained in Eritrea.

According to reports, on May 30 the Al-Shabaab launched a major suicide assault on the Somali military base in the town of Masagaway in Galguduud. The jihadists began the raid with at least one suicide car bomb before the much larger assault team stormed the base. However, exact details then vary on what exactly occurred next. According to the Somali government, the soldiers fought back, killing at least 30 Shabaab fighters before forcing the jihadis to withdraw.

Unsurprisingly, Shabaab has painted an entirely different picture. According to its media, it initially claimed to have killed at least 73 Somali soldiers while also capturing copious amounts of weapons, equipment, and vehicles. It later raised its tally to more than 149 troops killed.

Undercutting the Somali government’s claims, it also released photos that appear to confirm many elements of its story including that the attack was not easily repulsed.

Masagaway was recently re-captured from Shabaab control just earlier this year. Shabaab previously attacked a Macaawisley base (clan-based militia fighting on the side of the Somali government against Shabaab) in the town in April. Though the town is nominally in government hands, the attacks demonstrate Shabaab’s continued freedom of movement in the area.

The Somali government has slowed down offensive operations against Shabaab in the country’s center, where it previously sustained major pressure against the jihadi group since last summer. Additionally, the Somali government continues to delay the beginning of the so-called “Phase Two” of the counter-Shabaab offensives, which are supposed to take place in Somalia’s southern states of Jubaland and South-West State.

However, the pause in any major offensives has allowed Shabaab to regain momentum and launch these recent successive attacks against major military bases in two different parts of the country. The raids are likely to continue as Shabaab is given more breathing room to consolidate, regroup, and refocus its forces.

Al-Shabaab attacks on ATMIS

2022: Raid on an ATMIS outpost in Middle Shabelle manned by Burundian troops. Al-Shabaab claimed at least 173 Burundian soldiers were killed, though the real number was probably lower.

2016: Raid at El-Adde in Somalia’s southern Gedo region manned by Kenyan troops. Between 141 and 200 Kenyan troops were reportedly killed. Kenya has rejected the numbers.

2017: Raid on Kenya’s bases in southern Somalia Kenya. About 68 troops reportedly killed.

2018: Raid on AMISOM base manned by UPDF in Lower Shabelle. At least 46 troops reportedly killed in twin suicide assault involving car bombs.

A recent report from Voice of America found that at least 3,500 African Union troops have been killed inside Somalia battling Shabaab since 2007, with some quoted officials holding the possibility that this number could be higher. The vast majority of killed troops have been from Uganda and Burundi.

One comment

  1. This is very sad to hear what happened to our troops in Somalia. God will help us conquer this wicked rebels.

    Why can’t there be a thorough check on the source of these wicked forces called alshabbabs?

    Please check very carefully within among yourselves there are some elements who are the very backbone of the Alshababs. Some of these are top officials in United Nations. Some are in Somalia government. But most crutinize and give a strict eye 👁‍🗨 on UN officials. These guys owns the rebels group in Somalia and yet pretending to be the peace initiators.
    You believe me on this but its true.

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