Ugandan helicopters, Somalia-bound, go missing over Kenya


Uganda soldiers serving with the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) 33rd Battalion are silhouetted against the Mogadishu skyline at sundown atop a partially destroyed building in the Yaaqshiid District of Mogadishu, where Amisom forces have pushed Al Shabaab militants beyond the city's northern fringes to the outskirts of the Somalia seaside capital. This picture was taken on November 22, 2011.


Stuart Price

African officials today said at least two Ugandan helicopters bound for Somalia have disappeared over Kenya, reported The New York Times

Kenya's Capital FM today reported that several copters had been sighted in the forest and rescue attempts are under way, while NYT cited local media as saying a pilot had radioed for assistance from the Mount Kenya forest. 

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Kenyan officials said the helicopters left Entebbe, Uganda, on Sunday bound for Somalia's Kismayu, the largest city held by the radical Islamic Shabab group, which still controls parts of the central African country, according to BBC News.

The helicopters were to join a fresh military offensive reportedly called for by United Nations-backed African Union (AU) force there in an effort to definitely oust militants from the region after months of fighting, said NYT.

It was not immediately clear how many helicopters had gone missing or how many people were on board, but Agence-France Press cited officials today saying only one had arrived at Kenya's military air base in the city of Garissa. 

Kenyan defense department spokesman Bogita Ongeri told BBC that rescue work was being complicated by harsh weather conditions. 

Uganda has played a leading role in supporting the AU's Somalia mission, losing hundreds of soldiers in what NYT said has been one of the bloodiest peacekeeping initiatives in recent history.