Thursday, August 16, 2012
MOGADISHU, Aug. 16 (Xinhua) -- The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) said its operations against Al-Shabaab will continue despite the loss of three Ugandan helicopters en route to reinforce the peacekeeping mission in the Horn of Africa nation.
Two people were killed after three Russian made Mi 24 helicopters crash landed in Kenya en route to Somalia.
AMISOM said in a statement on Wednesday that the helicopters went down in bad weather in the Kenyan highlands on Sunday.
So far, 14 survivors have been found and a search and rescue operation has been launched by the Kenyan authorities to locate 5 others, AMISOM said in the statement.
Boubacar Diarra, special envoy of the AU Commission, said that despite the setback, AMISOM remained committed to improving the security of the people of Somalia.
Diara urged the UN and the international community "to expedite the training and deployment of replacement helicopters and crew."
The deployment of the helicopters is the first time the mission is equipped with an air component since its start in 2007.
The helicopters were to be used for aerial combat against Somali militants, provide aerial escort for convoys, reconnaissance along the supply routes, medical evacuations, air search and rescue operations.
They were also supposed to provide air cover in Somalia to support the AU peacekeeping mission composed of contingents from countries like Burundi, Djibouti, Kenya and Uganda.
Uganda currently has over 8,000 soldiers under the AU peacekeeping mission to help stabilize and pacify the troubled Horn of Africa country.