One of three Ugandan helicopters that had been lost in the Mount Kenya forest over the weekend has been recovered, along with seven of the 28 soldiers who had been reported missing.
The soldiers were receiving medical treatment at a military base in Nanyuki, Kenyan military spokesman Bogita Ongeri said. But Ongeri would not comment on their condition – or if there had been others on board their helicopter.
A search and rescue mission is underway to find the other two helicopters that went down Sunday night while flying to Somali to meet with AMISOM forces. A fourth helicopter touched down safely in the Kenyan city of Garissa later that night.
Contradicting Ongeri’s announcement, however, was a report from Kampala’s new Vision newspaper, which quoted Ugandan Army spokesperson Felix Kulaigye on Monday as saying all three of the helicopters had been located in the Mount Kenya forest. According to New Vision, Kulaigye said there were no fatalities in the three helicopters, which were forced to make a “hard landing” as opposed to the previous reported crash. One of the pilots then sent out a message for urgent aid, which was answered by Kenya Defense Forces. Ongeri said that Kenyan rescue efforts were struggling through bad weather and dense forest cover.
Ugandan authorities reported that the four helicopters had left a base in Soroti on Sunday, tasked with aiding the AMISOM forces in the war against Al Shabaab. Kulaigye outlined the original flight plan for all four helicopters with New Vision. He said:
“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.”
Only a single Mi-17 helicopter made it to Garissa, having lost contact with the other three.