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AU peacekeepers overstretched against al-Shabaab, Uganda warns

Thursday, September 26, 2013

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Uganda, which heads the African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia, warned on Tuesday that its soldiers were over-stretched and unable to launch further attacks against Islamist militia al-Shabaab.

General Katumba Wamala told reporters in Kampala that the AU force, currently made up of about 18,000 soldiers, needs an additional 7,000 troops or risks ceding ground to al-Shabaab, the group behind the terrorist attack at a mall in Nairobi, Kenya.

"We cannot open new areas against the enemy. It's too bad for the region because al-Shabaab might regroup and stage attacks. If we allow the situation to continue as it is, the terrorists will stage more attacks," he warned.

Uganda has some 6000 troops committed to the AU force in Somalia, known as AMISOM, which is supporting the UN-backed government as it takes back land from al-Shabaab. The other troops come from Burundi, Kenya and Djibouti.

"We cannot expand in Somalia and currently, we are concentrating on the areas we captured," the Ugandan general warned.

Al-Shabaab fighters claimed the July 2010 suicide bomb attacks in Uganda on crowds of fans watching the World Cup soccer games at restaurants in which 74 people were killed and more than 80 injured.

The group - which said it attacked Kenya for its military presence in Somalia - had also warned that it would hit Uganda and Burundi for their roles in the Somali conflict.

Uganda has condemned the attack at Nairobi's Westgate shopping mall, describing it as a "barbaric, primitive and cowardly terrorist act."

Al-Shabaab has been on the back foot in Somalia, losing its bases in the capital Mogadishu and the key port city of Kismayo, which was a major source of revenue.

However, the group - which has been recently taken over by its most radical elements, seeking to expand to global jihad - is regularly able to stage bombings in Mogadishu and holds swaths of rural land in the south of the country.

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