Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) has assured Somalia militants al-Shabaab that it doesn’t intend to leave until Somalia has been made safe from terrorism.
This was stressed by Army spokesman, Brig Richard Karemire, while receiving 12 coffins containing the remains of soldiers gunned down by Al-Shabaab militants in Somalia on Wednesday at Entebbe airbase.
The Deputy Chief of Defence Forces Lt General Wilson Mbadi, the Commander of Land Forces Major General Peter Elwelu, the Commander of UPDF Air Force, Charles Lwanga Lutaaya, were all present to receive the bodies.
The remains aboard a Boeing 737 cargo plane touched down at the UPDF Air Force Base after 2:00 pm.
They were offloaded amidst an elaborate military ceremony by officers and men of the UPDF.
The relatives of the fallen soldiers, including the lone female soldier Penelope Amutuhaire, couldn’t hold back their tears as the bodies arrived.
The soldiers were killed in an ambush by the Al-Shabaab as they were on a regular patrol to secure a humanitarian route, 140 km south of the Somali capital, Mogadishu.
Although Al-Shabaab claims to have killed 39 out of 59 UPDF soldiers in the ambush, the UPDF insists they lost 12 soldiers.
As the coffins were laid on the runway tarmac, officers and men of the UPDF lined up to pay their respect as the army brass band played the national and East African Community anthems and sorrowful hymns.
An unidentified female officer, who accompanied the bodies, handed a bundle of papers containing details of the deceased to Lt. Gen Mbadi.
The soldiers staged a rifle salute, meaning the fallen soldiers were junior officers.
Speaking to press after, Karemire vowed that UPDF will fight the militants to the bitter end.
UPDF was scheduled to leave Somalia in 2017 but the mission was later extended.
Written by URN