The Ugandan air force says it is going to deploy fighter jets in Somalia to help the war-torn country battle al-Shabab militants.
Maj. Kiconco Tabaro, air force spokesperson told Chinese news agency Xinhua on Friday that the deployment comes as part of the African Union (AU) mission’s operations in Somalia to retake more areas from the militants.
“The AU has been negotiating with us on the deployment of our military aircrafts and assets in Somalia. We have agreed on the modalities and we shall deploy them soon,” Maj. Tabaro is quoted as saying.
The Major said the mission would also ease troops mobility and help the evacuation of medical staff and casualties.
“As you know our troops are too far from each other in Somalia. Our line of communication and movement has been difficult,” Tabaro noted, emphasising that the assets are necessary and will ease personnel mobility, logistics, medical and causality evacuation.
Army spokesperson, Lt. Col. Paddy Ankunda, reinforced the message saying a heightened wave of attacks by al-Shabab militants against the military forces and civilian population in Somalia has made Uganda’s help urgently needed.
“We have reached a point of no return. We have been lacking the needed air support in the fight against the al-Shabab militants in Somalia,” Ankunda is quoted as saying.
He added: “We are committed to liberating our Somali people.”
According to AFP, in a recent meeting in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, AU officials announced that they were negotiating with Uganda to have its helicopters deployed in Somalia.
Uganda had prior plans to deploy military assets in Somalia, although they faced a setback in 2012 when a convoy of helicopters that had been sent to Somalia crashed in Kenya, killing seven crew members.
Kampala also received two Cessna 208B aircraft from the United States in March, allegedly as an appreciation for its counterterrorism and security efforts in Somalia.
Uganda is also the biggest contributor of ground forces to the AU mission in Somalia, and troops of the Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF) have been stationed there since 2007.