70 Ugandan, Burundi troops killed in Somalia

By Our Online Team

24th Oct 2011:

Dead Ugandan, Burundi troops in Somalia

Reports and pictures coming out of the Somali capital Mogadishu indicate that up to 70 (seventy) African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) peacekeeping troops were killed in bloody battle last week by the extremist Islamic militants Al Shabaab.

The dead troops, the majority of whom are said to be Burundian soldiers, were killed on Thursday following a battle with Al Shabab, according to Abu Omar, a commander of the anti-government Islamist group.  “…We can confirm that more than 150 Burundian soldiers were killed in the battle.  We can confirm to you that 76 of the bodies are currently in our custody and the battle lasted for about six hours,” he told Al Jazeera television.

Displaying the bodies in the dust to reporters, Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage, an al-Shabab spokesman, said:  “…We have killed more than 70 of the enemy soldiers today … We have inflicted heavy losses on them and you can see their dead bodies.” The bodies were put on display in the Al Shabab-controlled El-Maan area, 18km from Mogadishu.

Witnesses say the bodies were not Somalis and most were dressed in military uniforms.  “…I have seen the largest number of soldiers killed in a battle.  I have counted 63 Burundian soldiers, all of them dead.  The Shabab brought them on trucks to Alamada.  Some of the dead bodies were dragged along by angry residents,” Hasan Yunus, an eye witness said.

Photographs showed long lines of at least 20 bodies dressed in military uniform laid out in the sand, surrounded by a large crowd with their faces covered.  Al Shabab claims that the battle started when the Burundian soldiers, supported by some of the militia from the regime, attacked an area in Dayniile which also has a large population of innocent civilians.

“…First the Burundian troops began by indiscriminately shelling the area with mortars and rockets whereby dozens of innocent civilians lost their lives as a result and hundreds more were injured. Shortly after the shelling had stopped, the Burundian troops began to move towards the district of Dayniile.

We were informed of their preparations and movements by our reconnaissance teams, so the mujahideen [al-Shabab] was laying in wait for them. And when they advanced, along with their tanks and armoured personnel carriers, they fell into an ambush and that’s where the battle began,” Al Shabab’s Abu Omar said.

African Union Mission for Somalia (AMISOM) troops and government forces have been pushing into remaining al-Shabab areas in Mogadishu, after the bulk of the fighters abandoned their fixed positions in August.  Burundian troops with the 9,000 strong AMISOM force control the sector closest to the fighting and are believed to have led the assault.

Ugandan soldiers make up the bulk of the AU force and control other sections of Mogadishu.  Despite their pullout from much from the capital, al-Shabab has not wavered from its aim to topple the government.  The fighters still control large swathes of southern and central Somalia, and remain a serious security threat.

In an interview with Aljazeera TV, Lt. Col. Paddy Ankunda, the AMISOM Spokesman in Mogadishu, however denied that up to seventy AU troops were killed.  He said only ten soldiers were killed.  Ankunda however admitted that there were a number of AU soldiers who are still unaccounted for.

Commenting on the pictures of AU soldiers [shown in this report] allegedly killed by Al Shabaab militants, Lt. Col. Ankunda claimed that the pictures had been doctored by Al Shabaab for propaganda purposes.  END.  Please login to www.ugandacorrespondent.com every Monday to read our top stories and anytime mid-week for our news updates.

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