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Africa

AU troops accused of killing 18 after explosion

Latest update : 2009-02-03

African Union troops killed at least 18 civilians in Somalia when they responded with gunfire to a roadside bomb attack, local officials said Monday. A spokesman for the AU forces denied the charges.

AFP - At least 18 people died in Somalia Monday when African Union troops opened fire after their convoy was hit by a roadside bomb, Somali officials said, but the force's spokesman denied the shooting.

Police commander Yusuf Dhumal said the troops killed the civilians when they opened fired at buses following the blast in southern Mogadishu.

"This is a tragedy. What happened this afternoon indicates a complete irresponsibility and it will not be tolerated," Dhumal told AFP.

"I counted 18 dead civilians who were killed by them after spraying fire on the buses."

Mogadishu deputy mayor Abdifatah Shaweye said more than 20 civilians were killed in the shooting.

"The African Union forces committed mass killings today after an explosion hit their convoy. The number of innocent civilians they killed after the explosion exceeded 20," he said.

Major Bahuko Baridgye, the spokesman of the AU forces, denied the charges and said earlier that three civilians died in the explosion that also wounded four others.

"The information we got indicates that three civilians died in the explosion and one of our soldiers was lightly injured. The vehicle was also slightly damaged," Bridgye told AFP. "Our forces did not open fire on people."

The AU peacekeepers have often been targeted by hardline insurgents since the first Ugandan contingent deployed in the war-wracked country in March 2007.

Ethiopian forces that had also borne the brunt of the insurgency pulled out of Somalia last month, sparking fears of a security vacuum in the lawless country.

On Saturday, Somali lawmakers elected moderate Islamist Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed as the country's new president in a new bid to stabilise Somalia.

However, hardline Islamists who have rejected the government and continue to carry out deadly attacks remain a huge challenge to the new president's efforts to pacify the country.

Date created : 2009-02-03