The Ugandan air force says it is going to deploy fighter jets in Somalia to help the war-torn country battle al-Shabab militants. A spokesperson for Uganda's air force said 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. Kiconco Tabaro told Chinese news agency Xinhua, adding that 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. These assets are necessary and will ease our personnel mobility, logistics, medical and causality evacuation," Tabaro said.
Another military spokesman said 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," Lt. Col. Paddy Ankunda said, adding, "We are committed to liberating our Somali people."
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.
Somalia has been the scene of deadly clashes between government forces and al-Shabab since 2006. The militants have been pushed out of the capital, Mogadishu, and other major cities by forces of the government and the African Union, which is largely made up of troops from Ethiopia, Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti, Sierra Leone, and Kenya.
Al-Shabab have, however, continued to carry out attacks in Mogadishu.