African Union peace force in Somalia probes reports of civilian deaths


The African Union’s (AU) peacekeeping mission in Somalia said it was investigating reports that civilians were killed during a gunfight between the mission’s troops and al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab fighters.

Dozens of people protested outside a Mogadishu hospital where the remains of victims had been brought, vowing to fight the AU mission in Somalia, known as AMISOM.

AMISOM said the incident occurred on Tuesday following an ambush, while its soldiers were on patrol along the Beldamin-Golweyn Forward Operating Base in the Lower Shabelle region.

There was a heavy exchange of gunfire between AMISOM forces and al Shabaab militants before the patrol team seized firearms, rounds of ammunition and mobile phones, it said in a statement late on Wednesday.

AMISOM has “launched a thorough investigation into the reported incident,” the statement said. The mission wasn’t immediately able to comment further on Thursday.

Ten local residents told Reuters that seven civilians were killed in the incident, on a farm about 120 km southwest of Mogadishu.

“I rushed to the farm but oh, the whole place was blood and jumbled-up minced flesh,” Habiba Abdi Aden, a frail 50-year-old woman, said through tears.

She said she had found the remains of her 25-year-old son and carried what she could in a sack.

The AU peacekeeping mission, first deployed in 2007, supports the government against al Shabaab.

The Islamist al Shabaab group often carries out attacks in its war on Somalia’s central government. It aims to topple the government and impose its own harsh interpretation of Islamic sharia law.

Last month, a Somali mother and her child were killed when a Kenyan warplane bombed two towns in southern Somalia, the woman’s husband told Reuters. A contingent of the Kenyan military is part of AMISOM, and AMISOM said it was investigating the incident.