Kampala — The Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF) has dismissed claims by al-Shabaab militants that they killed 59 Ugandan troops in Somalia and wounded 19 others during the Sunday fighting at three army bases in the Lower Shabelle region.
Instead, the army spokesperson, Brig Richard Karemire, countered that the al-Shabaab must be regretting why they blundered into attacking the Ugandan bases because they suffered heavy casualties.
"They attempted to attack three of our forward bases and in that fight, we killed 46 of them," Brig Karemire told Daily Monitor by telephone yesterday.
"We lost four of our comrades and six got injured," he added.
Al-Jazeera broadcaster had quoted the al-Shabaab spokesperson Abdiaziz Abu Mus'ab as saying the militants had killed dozens of Ugandan peacekeeping troops under the African Union Mission for Somalia (Amisom). The al-Shabaab claimed they lost only 14 of their fighters.
"The Mujahideen fighters entered the crusaders' base and killed at least 59 of them. Our fighters also attacked five other bases," Mus'ab was quoted by Al-Jazeera as saying.
However, Brig Karemire rebutted: "Do not fall into the propaganda of al-Shabaab. They underestimated our alertness but it was bloody for them."
The al-Shabaab attacked UPDF bases at Quoroyole, Buulo Mareer and Golwen in Lower Shabelle region on Sunday but were repulsed by the Ugandan troops.
To illustrate the UPDF prowess against the militants, Brig Karemire said the fierce fighting earned the battle-hardened soldiers a congratulatory message from President Museveni who applauded them for being alert and brave.
"His Excellency has congratulated us for the fierce fight against the enemy," he said.
On Sunday, the UPDF spokesperson in Somalia, Lt Col Deo Akiiki, said they had destroyed eight of the enemy vehicles two of which had been fitted with improvised explosives.
Although Amisom peacekeeping forces have eliminated the al-Shabaab Islamists in major towns, including the capital Mogadishu, the militants still control large parts of the countryside and often launch gun and bomb attacks on government, military and civilian targets.
The militants often ambush military convoys and attack army outposts.
The UPDF accounts for majority of the 22,000-strong Amisom force in Somalia and last month warned the United Nations against its plan to withdraw the peacekeeping troops by December 2020. The UPDF asked the UN to reconsider its plan of troop withdrawal, saying the timing is unrealistic and could reverse the military and peace gains so far achieved in Somalia since the first deployment in 2007.