MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — African Union troops mistakenly opened fire on a religious school while pursuing militants, killing five children and two adults, a Somali legislator said Thursday.
Dahir Amin Jesow, who visited the scene of the attack at Leggo village, said all five children were less than 10 years old. Jesow said the attack in the village 75 miles (120 kilometers) west of the Somali capital, Mogadishu, took place around 3 a.m. Tuesday. Students of Islamic schools in Somalia often attend class in the early morning.
The AU soldiers were earlier attacked by militants, Jesow said. The Somali government condemned the killings. "We have zero patience for the killing of innocent civilians," Abdikarim Hussein Guled, Somalia's interior minister said in a statement issued after a cabinet meeting.
"We demand a clarification from the AMISOM on that attack," he said. The African Union Mission for Somalia, known as AMISOM, said it is investigating the incident. "AMISOM is mindful of its responsibility to minimize civilian casualties during its operations and we have clear rules of engagement to that effect. We are therefore currently establishing the facts and the circumstances around this tragic incident so as to ascertain whether, and to what extent, these rules may have been breached," said Acting Force Commander Maj. General Salvatore Harushimana in a statement Wednesday evening
AU troops are in Somalia to bolster the country's weak government, which is facing an insurgency from al-Qaida-linked militants.