The Monitor (Kampala)

18 September 2009

Somalia: Top UPDF General Wounded in Somalia

Kampala — Maj. Gen. Nathan Mugisha, the head of Ugandan peacekeepers in Somalia, was yesterday morning injured in a car bomb attack by Islamist fundamentalists in Mogadishu, which left nine soldiers dead.

Among the dead, killed when Somali insurgents detonated two suicide car bombs at the African Union peacekeeping headquarters, was the African Union force deputy Commander - Burundian general Juvenile Niyoyunguriza.

The army spokesperson, Lt. Col. Felix Kulayigye, said Gen. Mugisha, the overall commander, is among the 10 who were injured in probably, the most daring attack by the Somali fundamentalists - al Shabaab who are opposed to the peace keepers.

Yesterday's attack was the most high profile by the fundamentalists on the peacekeepers composed of Burundian and Ugandan forces ever since they deployed in Somalia in 2007 to support the transitional government of President Ahmed Sharif Ahmed.

Col. Kulayigye said Gen. Mugisha was injured by falling debris and was receiving treatment at the AU medical unit in Mogadishu. Those with serious injuries were yesterday afternoon evacuated to Nairobi for treatment.

The suicide bombers disguisedly drove in UN marked vehicles to the AU force headquarters before blowing up the front part of the peacekeepers' head office, Col. Kulayigye said. "They came in the Burundian convoy, driving two UN vehicles which were stolen early this year and attacked the headquarters building. We have lost nine and 10 were injured," Lt. Col. Kulayigye said.

Names of the injured soldiers were not readily available by press time.

Gen. Niyoyunguriza was killed hours before he officially handed-over to his successor who survived the attack. "They (attackers) drove in the convoy of Gen. Niyoyunguriza to the headquarters where he was going to introduce his successor to force commander, Gen. Mugisha," he said. Gen. Mugisha, who is the third AU force commander, replaced Maj. Gen. Francis Okello last month.

Hardline Islamist militants vowed to revenge the US killing of the top al Qaeda suspect, Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan on Tuesday. Lt. Col. Kulayigye said they were still verifying the number of the dead and injured Ugandans. "We are still finding out. These are preliminary findings. But the situation is bad," he said.

This attack brings the total number of peacekeepers killed to 35 with Gen. Niyoyunguriza the highest ranking officer to be killed in volatile Somalia.

Questions are being asked how the attackers unnoticeably drove in the Burundian convoy for more than three kilometers from the Burundian Contingent headquarters to AU headquarters before they blew the front part of the office. "That's a matter of investigation. It will be investigated," Lt. Col. Kulayigye said.

The Burundian forces were attacked in similar fashion in February when a suicide bomber entered a shelter where soldiers were praying, killing 11 of them. The Islamist fundamentalists, seeking to overthrow the transitional government, have repeatedly targeted the 5,000 peacekeeping forces.

Early this month, the Uganda battle group four dubbed, Ugabag Four under the command of Col. Geoffrey Katsigazi left for peacekeeping mission after African Union reviewed the mandate of the peacekeepers to allow them attack the Al-shabaab militants.

Asked whether, the peacekeepers would attack, the insurgents' positions, Col. Kulayigye said, "that's for the force commander to answer".

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