Fighters linked to Al Qaeda have been killed after troops raided their hiding places in southern Somalia.
Ugandan soldiers working as part of the peacekeepers in Somalia killed 189 al-Shabab fighters in an attack on one of their camps, the Ugandan army said.
Ugandan troops are part of the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia (AMISOM), which aims to support the central government and halt the efforts of the al-Qaeda-linked group to topple it.
The Ugandan People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) said in a statement that their soldiers attacked al-Shabab hideouts in the villages of Sigaale, Adimole and Kayitoy on Friday, 100 km southwest of the capital Mogadishu.
“[The raid] … Saw the forces decommission 189 fighters linked to Al Qaeda and destroy a number of military equipment and items used in terrorist attacks, ”the UPDF said.
Ugandan army spokesman Lt. Col. Deo Akiiki said the military operation involved both ground and air assaults.
“This is the highest number of al-Shabab fighters killed in one day,” Akiiki said.
It was not immediately possible to verify the death toll. There was no immediate comment from al-Shabab on the attack.
Ugandan forces have been operating in Somalia for more than 10 years and have lost around 20 soldiers during that time. Uganda was the first country to send peacekeeping troops to Somalia.
In recent days, al-Shabab fighters have stepped up their attacks on security forces as African Union forces and the Somali National Army continue to push the group out of the strongholds in successive military operations.
Al-Shabab – which aims to overthrow the Somali government and impose its own harsh interpretation of Islamic law – controlled most of south-central Somalia until 2011, when it was driven out of Mogadishu by the Somali troops, supported by African Union soldiers.
Despite the loss of territory, al-Shabab continues to carry out significant gun and bomb attacks, often claiming casualties that conflict with those given by government officials.
The African Union’s 19,000 multinational forces must withdraw from Somalia by the end of the year and hand over responsibility for the country’s security to Somali forces.