With President Obama scheduled to visit Kenya later this week the Ugandan military is deploying attack and transport helicopters to bolster its forces fighting the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab insurgency in bordering Somalia.
This is the latest push from the African Union force, which includes Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Sierra Leone, to flush the terrorist group from rural areas.
President Obama will be addressing the three-day summit on global entrepreneurship in Nairobi that begins Friday. The U.S. State Department last Monday issued a travel alert for the weekend of the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, saying, "Large-scale public events such as this Summit can also be a target for terrorists.”
Lt. Col. Paddy Ankunda said Sunday the helicopters would be carrying out operations against al-Shabab as well as evacuating the injured and improving communications.
“Our lines of communication are too long and it’s been difficult to evacuate the injured or the sick soldiers. These air assets will boost our operations against al-Shabab,” he said.
In August 2012 the first helicopter deployment to Somalia resulted in three of the aircraft crashing in Kenya, killing seven crew members.
The African Union also launched a two-phase offensive Friday to draw al-Shabab out of their last major stronghold in Tarako and in other areas of the Gedo and Bay regions.
Al-Shabab has taken responsibility for a number of attacks in Kenya in the past few years.
Militants from Al-Shabab were responsible for the attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi that killed 67 people in 2013. The mall reopened Saturday with bolstered security measures including X-ray machines, explosive detectors and bulletproof guard towers.
Earlier this month Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for an attack in Kenya's Mandera County that killed at least 14 people and injured 11 others. In April Al-Shabab attacked Garissa University in northern Kenya, killing 147 people in its deadliest attack to date.