The African Union today formally apologized for its most recent civilian killings in Somalia, and announced that it had arrested six of its soldiers for roles in the incident. The troops were said to be part of Uganda’s commitment to the AU force.
According to witnesses, the troops opened fire on a crowd of civilians in central Mogadishu, killing two of them and wounding several others. A number of children were reportedly among the wounded.
Though AU commanders insisted it was an “isolated incident,” locals say the AU convoys routinely open fire to disperse crowds when they happen by. The AU force, some 7,000 strong, is mostly relegated to the small portion of Mogadishu in which the self-styled Somali “government” still holds sway.
AU reports have repeatedly warned of the problem of civilian deaths in the operations, with troops shelling the crowded Bakara Market not far from the presidential palace at least a couple of times a month when riled up over an IED or a mortar strike from insurgents. AU commanders have normally defended the killings of civilians as justified and today’s apology seems to be the first case in which officials didn’t either try to deny such an incident or insist it was retaliation for some perceived slight by the local population.
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