Soldier still missing one year after al-Shabaab attack on UPDF base

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Thursday marked one year since al-Shabaab insurgents launched a deadly attack on the Ugandan military base in Somalia, killing 19 soldiers.

One soldier was captured and later paraded in a video released by the insurgents as a prisoner of war two months later. Speaking in Swahili and handcuffed, the soldier said in the video that al-Shabaab was “treating him well”.

It’s not clear whether the soldier is still alive but the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) spokesperson, Lt Col Paddy Ankunda, said they were hopeful one day he will be rescued.

Three days after the attack, President Museveni told the Japanese media that six soldiers were missing in action but Lt Col Ankunda on Thursday said five had been accounted for.

In an interview last week, the Chief of Defence Forces, Gen Katumba Wamala, said the attackers took advantage of a mistake made by the commanders.

“The commanders made a mistake to deploy a small force to guard a base that had been occupied by a bigger force,” said Gen Wamala.
He said it has become a pattern for al-shabaab to attack UPDF positions occupied by forces that have just been deployed or those that are about to return home.

The probe

A committee of inquiry chaired Brig Jack Bakasumba found out that the commanders didn’t handle the operational requirements well.

The inquiry also found that the Janaale UPDF defensive position manned by 200 troops was overwhelmed by the al-Shabaab attackers who were estimated to be between 350 and 500.

The committee of inquiry, which travelled to Somalia and Kenya, interviewed commanders and soldiers and inspected defence sites in Somalia.

The report says the attack could have been avoided if commanders at all levels had read the “clear warning signals and made the necessary tactical adjustments”.

THE BACKOUND

After the attack, President Museveni ordered the suspension and arrest of Col Bosco Mutambi and three others who are now on trial over the attack. Lt Col Mutambi was the Commander of Battle Group 16 that occupied Janaale. He was demoted to lieutenant colonel.

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