UPDF Soldiers Killed in Mogadishu
October 24, 2010 4 Comments
Mogadishu’s streets never seem to be without a corpse or two. Whether it is the African Union peacekeepers’ bodies being dragged by children on the dusty roads of Mogadishu or bodies of insurgents or the heap of civilian corpses piled on top of one another after being struck by mortars in the Bakara market, the streets in this city have witnessed more horrors than can be imagined. Usually people take no notice of the bodies lying on the concrete pavements and it is often the putrid stench of blood that sharply brings the decaying bodies to one’s attention. But the stiff corpses of the African Union forces seem to attract an unusual sort of attention in Mogadishu. Many residents flocked to the Baar Ubax Street today to witness another public event: the dead body of a Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) soldier killed in a fire fight against the Al Shabab.
The Islamists have been parading hundreds of newly-trained fighters in the cities of Mogadishu, Baladweyne, Marka and Rabdhuure in the last few days and have vowed to step up their attacks against the African Union troops and the weak Transitional federal Government (TFG). Upon their arrival in Mogadishu, the newly-trained Islamist fighters, known as the ‘Mustafa Abu Yazid Brigade’ in tribute to the late Al Qaeda leader who was killed in an American air strike, immediately began their offensive. By midnight the Islamist fighters launched a surprise attack at one of the Amisom bases near Makka Al Mukarram street – a vital artery that connects Mogadishu’s KM 4 circle to the Presidential Palace and the airport and is also a supply line for the Amisom troops based in those areas – and caught the peacekeepers off guard. It is reported that up to 5 peacekeepers were killed in the attack and dozens more injured.
The Somali government soldiers who were manning the posts along with the peacekeepers are said to have fled the battlefield shortly after the exchange of gunfire began. And this is one of the grave concerns that the Amisom forces in Mogadishu seem to have these days. After several such incidents where TFG soldiers have deliberately deserted their comrades in the line of fire, the Amisom troops no longer have that bond of trust and cordiality with the government soldiers and the relationship between the two forces appears to be severely strained. The government soldiers, on their part, complain of lack of pay and cannot, as they say, be expected to put their lives on the line at all times.
Another obstacle that hinders the African Union troops’ advance into the Islamist controlled territory is the labyrinthine network of alleyways and streets that Mogadishu is renowned for. The intricately designed streets require excessive knowledge and some neighbourhoods have proven to be impenetrable even for the Ethiopian troops in 2007. But now with the relationship between the Amisom forces and the Somali government soldiers seemingly unpleasant, the peacekeepers are often left wandering out on their own in the streets of Mogadishu. As a result they are often ambushed by the Islamists who know these intricate passages very well.
It must be a tough decision for the AU spokesman, Mr Barigye Ba-Hoku, to make. So far the spokesman has denied all reports suggesting that AU peacekeepers were either killed, captured or dragged through the streets of Mogadishu – even after their photos were circulating throughout the media.
“There was an attack on one of our positions by the rebels as they usually do and some of our soldiers suffered minor injuries,” he said.
One can only wonder about the state of mind of those soldiers. What must be going through the minds of the poor African Union soldiers dutifully guarding their posts outside the Presidential Palace when they see the bodies of their fellow soldiers being displayed or dragged through the streets of Mogadishu! It must be excruciatingly upsetting for a soldier operating in such a hostile territory to learn, beforehand, of the misfortunes that lie in front of him and the thorny path that he has to traverse in order to achieve his goal.
And when the remaining soldiers see images of their fallen comrades in Mogadishu’s Baar Ubax Junction, and then hear the spokesman’s vehement rejection, it only adds to their agony – making it clear to them that if they were to fall into enemy hands, their seniors would also disown them too.