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Uganda's Troops to Leave Somalia by End of 2017

FILE - Uganda army soldiers at a military airbase in Entebbe carry the caskets containing the remains of Ugandan soldiers who were killed in Somalia during the week, Sept. 3, 2015.

Uganda said Thursday that it plans to withdraw its troops from Somalia by December 2017, another signal that it is scaling back regional military interventions.

President Yoweri Museveni has intervened in several hot spots, deploying troops to help quell unrest in Somalia, Central African Republic and South Sudan in recent years.

A staunch ally of the United States, Museveni has faced a groundswell of opposition at home since winning a disputed presidential election in February.

Uganda deployed troops to in Somalia in 2007, the first of several contingents from the region in the African Union-mandated AMISOM force formed to combat al-Shabab Islamist militants.

"Our plan that we have communicated to the African Union is that by December 2017, we want to be out," Paddy Ankunda, Uganda military spokesman, told Reuters. "So unless something major comes up, that's the time we want to come out of Somalia."

Uganda accounts for about a third of the roughly 22,000-strong AMISOM force.

Kampala bombings

Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for twin bombings in Kampala in 2010 that killed 76 people, which it called a punishment for Uganda's troop deployment in Somalia. Although since pushed out of its strongholds, the group remains a deadly threat.

Ankunda declined to give a reason for the planned Somalia withdrawal, which followed a similar announcement two weeks ago concerning Central African Republic, where Ugandan troops have been helping track down fighters from the Lord's Resistance Army rebel group.

Museveni, who is widely expected to seek another term in 2021, won February's ballot with 60 percent of the vote, a result rejected by his main rival, Kizza Besigye.

Besigye has since been charged with treason and is currently in jail awaiting trial.