Ugandan soldiers working as part of peacekeeping forces 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), whose aim is to support the central government and stop the al-Qaeda-linked group’s efforts to topple it.
The Ugandan People’s Defence Force (UPDF) said in a statement that its soldiers on Friday raided al-Shabab hideouts in the villages of Sigaale, Adimole and Kayitoy, 100km (62 miles) southwest of the capital Mogadishu.
“[The raid] … saw the forces put out of action 189 al Qaeda-linked fighters and destroyed a number of military hardware and items used by the terrorist attacks,” UPDF said.
A spokesman for Uganda’s army, Lieutenant Colonel Deo Akiiki, said the military operation involved ground and aerial assaults.
“This is the biggest number of al-Shabab fighters killed in a day,” Akiiki said.
It was not immediately possible to verify the reported death toll. There was no immediate comment from al-Shabab on the attack.
Ugandan forces have operated in Somalia for more than 10 years and lost about 20 soldiers during that time. Uganda was the first country to send peacekeeping troops to Somalia.
In recent days, al-Shabab fighters have intensified attacks on security forces as African Union forces and the Somali National Army continue pushing the group from strongholds in successive military operations.
Al-Shabab – which aims to topple Somalia’s 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 Somali troops, backed by African Union soldiers.
Despite the loss of territory, al-Shabab still carries out major gun-and-bomb attacks, often claiming casualty numbers that conflict with those given by government officials.
The 19,000-strong multinational African Union forces are set to withdraw from Somalia by the end of the year and hand over responsibility for the country’s security to Somali forces.