Uganda rules out attack on military copters
KAMPALA, Uganda – The Ugandan military on Monday ruled out a possibility that its combat helicopters that had a mishap in neighboring Kenya enroute to Somalia were attacked.
Col. Felix Kulayigye, army spokesman, told reporters here at the ministry of defense headquarters that evidence so far gathered from the recovered helicopter shows that it was not shot at.
“I rule out a possibility of an attack. A chopper that has been shot definitely the chances of catching fire are high. This one landed in the mountains and it is safe in terms of not catching fire,” he said.
Four Russian made military helicopters on Sunday left Uganda enroute to Somalia.
After several stopovers for refueling one of the helicopters, an MI 17 landed safely while the other three MI 24 did not reach the agreed destination.
One of the MI 24 had an emergency landing on the ranges of Mount Kenya while the other two are still missing although according to the Ugandan military, unconfirmed reports say they had a “hard landing.” Hard landing means landing in an ungazetted area.
Kulayigye said that the Ugandan military has dispatched a team to join their Kenyan counterparts in the search and rescue.
He said so far 18 people from the helicopter that made an emergency landing have been rescued and evacuated to a Kenyan military airbase.
The other 10 people who are in the missing helicopters are still an unaccounted for, he said, adding there were no foreigners involved in the mishap.
For the first time last week, the Ugandan military deployed its air force contingent and helicopters to support the ongoing African Union (AU) peace efforts in volatile Somalia.
The helicopters will be used for aerial combat against the Somali militants, provide aerial escort for convoys, reconnaissance along the supply routes, medical evacuations, air search and rescue operations.
They will also provide air cover in Somalia to support the AU mission composed of contingents from countries like Burundi, Djibouti 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.