At least two African Union soldiers have been arrested in connection with allegations of civilian murders after three incidents in which soldiers randomly killed nearly two ‘dozen’ of civilians after bomb attacks on their convoys in the coastal town of Marka, officials said on Sunday.The arrests of the two Ugandan soldiers were made after military commanders met with local elders in the town to discuss about the killings that sparked outrage across Somalia and beyond.
According to elders who attended the meeting, AU military commanders reported the arrest of two soldiers who are facing murder charges while others are still under investigations.
The separate killings took place after armed soldiers walked into residential houses and shot dead residents after suspected militants targeted their convoys with bomb attacks.
The civilian deaths put the soldiers in spotlight as they faced questions whether they could have done more to prevent the murder of ‘innocent’ civilians.
Hundreds of Somalis took to the social media, censuring the African Union soldiers of reckless civilian murders and that they enjoyed full immunity from criminal jurisdiction.
The force earlier denied civilian killings and insisted their troops have only shot dead militants behind bomb attack on their convoys.
During the meeting, the elders urged the army to avoid ‘collateral’ damage during operations which if continued they warned would create mistrust that would further strain relations between residents and AU forces, a scenario that may make it hard for the forces to pacify the volatile Lower Shabelle region.
The region has seen heavy fighting between allied forces and Al-Shabab fighters over the last few months.
The Al-Qaeda linked Al-Shabab group often uses such incidents as war propaganda to draw support from locals to prop up its deadly guerilla war against AU forces in Somalia.
In a related report, hundreds of people are said to have begun fleeing from Marka town in Lowe Shabelle region in south of Somalia after AMISOM troops killed at least 15 unarmed civilians in an attack on wedding part on the town.
Somalia’s Marka deputy financial affairs, Abdikarim Hussein Hassan told Shabelle Media based in Mogadishu that African Union troops’ shelling and killing had forced hundreds of local residents to evacuate from their houses.
Mr. Hussein Hassan said that AMISOM troops have been carrying out massive operation in villages in the town, adding that the troops were refusing residents to enter into villages housed by local residents.
Hassan added that business and public movements have been stopped by the troops from African Union (AMISOM) peacekeepers.
The move came when AMISOM forces killed 14 people in an attack on wedding part after roadside bomb explosion hit an armored personnel carrier, travelling through Marka town, capital of Lower Shabelle region.