NAIROBI, Kenya Aug 13 – Seven of the 28 Ugandan soldiers who were aboard three helicopters that went missing in Mount Kenya forest have been rescued.
Military Spokesman Bogita Ongeri said the soldiers in one of the located helicopters were receiving treatment at a military base in Nanyuki.
“Seven of them have been rescued and are being treated,” he said.
He would not comment on the extent of injuries they sustained or if they were the only ones in their helicopter.
Ongeri added that the search and rescue mission for two other military helicopters was underway in the expansive forest where they went down late on Sunday while en-route to Somalia to join AMISOM forces in the war against Al Shabaab.
Kenya and Ugandan authorities confirmed that a fourth helicopter landed safely in Garissa on Sunday.
However, Kampala’s New Vision newspaper quoted Ugandan Army Spokesperson Felix Kulaigye on Monday afternoon saying all the three helicopters had been located in Mount Kenya.
Kulaigye said there were no fatalities, explaining that the choppers did not crash as earlier reported but made what he described as a ‘hard landing’, according to the New Vision.
The army spokesman was quoted saying one of the pilots had sent a message from Mt Kenya Forest seeking for help. Kenya Defence Forces said the pilot told them the troops on the ground and in the ill-fated chopper needed urgent help.
Kenya’s military spokesman Ongeri told Capital FM News that the search and rescue efforts were hampered by bad weather and dense forest cover.
According to Ugandan authorities, the four helicopters left a base in Soroti in Eastern Uganda Sunday for Eldoret with 28 air force officers on board but disappeared in Kenyan air space.
Kulaigye was quoted in the News Vision saying “The choppers left Soroti on Sunday for Eldoret. They landed successfully. They then left Eldoret for Nanyuki where they were scheduled to refuel before flying to Garissa. The choppers arrived in Nanyuki at 4pm. After that they headed for Garissa and were expected to land at 6pm.”
He told the newspaper that it was only the Mi-17 helicopter that landed successfully in Garissa but is reported to have lost contact with the rest of the helicopters.
“The pilot of the third helicopter had radioed for help from the Mount Kenya region, but rain and poor weather conditions are hampering rescue efforts,” the paper said.