Al-Shabaab Attack: Conflicting reports on number of UPDF casualties

Al-shabaab Attack: Conflicting reports on number of UPDF casualties
Ugandan soldiers serving with the AMISOM during patrol. Courtesy Photo

There are conflicting reports on the number of Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) soldiers who were killed in an Al-Shabaab attack on Easter Sunday morning.

According to a statement issued by UPDF following the attack, only four soldiers were killed alongside 22 Al-Shabaab militants when the latter attempted to raid the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) Forward Operating Bases at Quoroyole, Buulo Mareer and Golwen in Lower Shabelle Region in Somalia.

Buulo Mareer is located some 130 kilometres southwest of the capital Mogadishu.

According to Lt Col Deo Akiiki, the deputy UPDF spokesperson, AMISON forces destroyed eight vehicles including two Vehicle Born Improvised Explosives and captured weapons from the militants. The captured weapons included four PK rifles, two rocket propelled guns, two Recoilless guns, one Walkie-Talkie radio and 18 Sub machine guns.

Just like it’s happened in previous attacks, there is conflicting figures on the number of dead and injured on both sides, with different international media sources quoting different numbers.

The UK’s Guardian Online reports that at least 46 UPDF soldiers were killed in double car bomb suicide attacks, quoting local officials in Mogadishu. The report quotes Abdi Nur Hashi, a Somali Military Colonel who also said one Somali soldier had died and several others were injured.

The New York Times and Reuters give a much high number of causality figures, with both saying 59 AMISOM soldiers were killed in the attack. Reuters further says 14 Al-Shabaab militants were killed, a figure lower than the 22 quoted by the UPDF.

The New York Times goes on to quote Ceaser Olweny, the UPDF spokesperson in Somalia saying 30 Al-Shabaab militants were killed. This figure is higher than the 22 stated by UPDF.

Kenya’s The Daily Nation is also carrying a report from AFP saying 59 UPDF soldiers were killed.

Al Jazeera quotes Abdiaziz Abu Mus’ab, the Al-Shabaab military spokesman, as saying the militant group lost 14 fighters in multiple attacks on six AMISOM bases, which also left 59 soldiers dead.

“The Mujahideen fighters entered the crusaders’ base and killed at least 59 of them. Our fighters also attacked five other bases,” Mus’ab is quoted as saying.

The Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission for Somalia in a press statement issued on2nd April, says at least 30 Al-Shabaab militants were killed, while four gallant soldiers of AMISOM were killed and six sustained injuries.

He says in the statement that AMISOM troops successfully repulsed the Al-Shabaab terrorists.

In a press statement issued today, Francisco Madeira, the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission for Somalia, lauds the AU “troops for the gallantry they displayed, during a confrontation with Al-Shabaab.”

“The troops fought off and successfully repulsed the terrorists who had launched simultaneous attacks on Forward Operating Bases in Quoryole, Bulomareer, and Golwein,” Madeira says in the statement.

He says the militants lost at least 30 fighters in the battle and that eight vehicles which ferried the terrorists were destroyed and an assortment of weapons recovered.

He says AMISOM lost four soldiers in the fighting while six others sustained injuries.

“We honor our brave soldiers, who are resolute in continuing to neutralise the insurgents in order to restore peace and stability in Somalia,” said Madeira.

When contacted for a comment on the conflicting figures, the UPDF spokesperson Brigadier Richard Karemire said different media houses have different sources with different agendas, with some quoting what he called enemy sources.

Karemire said the statement issued by the UPDF is “the correct one.”

“Some media houses quote enemy sources, regrettably. I don’t speak for Al-Shabaab, I don’t speak for Guardian, I don’t speak for New York Times, I speak for the Uganda People’s Defence Forces,” Karemire told this publication.

The situation is similar to the one after the August 2017 attack when UPDF said it had lost 12 soldiers while the militants said it had killed 39 Ugandan soldiers.

In September 2015, Al-Shabaab militants carried out an attack at the AMISOM base in Janaale district in Somalia with reports indicating that 50 AMISOM soldiers had died, while the Somali military said 37 soldiers died.

The UPDF disputed this through the then spokesperson Paddy Ankunda who tweeted that the estimates of more than 50 deaths were a fabrication, insisting later that only 10 Ugandan soldiers had been killed in Somalia.

Days later, however, President Museveni who was on a visit to Japan told the media that 19 Ugandan soldiers had been killed in the Janaale attack, adding that six soldiers were still missing.

Uganda was the first country to deploy in Somalia in 2007 and contributes the biggest contingent of the 22,000-strong AMISOM force.

The African Union plans to scale down its force and gradually hand over security operations to the Somali national army by 2020.