MOGADISHU, Aug 12 (Reuters) – The African Union’s peacekeeping mission in Somalia said it had started investigating reports that civilians were killed during a gunfight between its troops and al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab fighters.
The force, known as the African Union Mission in Somalia (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 since received reports that civilian lives were lost. To this end, AMISOM has launched a thorough investigation into the reported incident,” it said.
Seven civilians were killed in the incident, a farmer in Golweyn village told Reuters on Thursday, including his brother Omar Hassan who owned a farm in the area, a driver and five other farmers.
“AMISOM deliberately went to the farm and killed them,” he said.
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.
The African Union peacekeeping mission, which was first deployed in 2007, supports the government against al Shabaab.
Reporting by Abdi Sheikh; Writing by George Obulutsa Editing by Gareth Jones