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Uganda sending combat helicopters to Somalia battle

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — Uganda will send attack and transport helicopters to bolster its forces fighting the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab insurgency in Somalia, an army spokesman said Sunday.

Lt. Col. Paddy Ankunda said the helicopters would help evacuate the injured, improve communication and carry out operations against the militants.

“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.

The first attempt to deploy helicopters ended tragically in August 2012 when three of the aircraft crashed in neighboring Kenya on the way to Somalia killing seven crew members.

Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Sierra Leone have deployed troops to Somalia as part of an African Union force bolstering the country’s weak government against al-Shabab’s insurgency.

The African Union troops pushed al-Shabab out of the capital, Mogadishu, in 2011.

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