MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — Ten civilians, including three children, were killed in a raid by foreign and Somali forces on a farm in southern Somalia, a deputy governor said Friday as officials displayed victims’ bloodied bodies in the capital.
The farmers were killed “one by one” after soldiers stormed the farm in Barire village early Friday, the deputy governor of Lower Shabelle region, Ali Nur Mohamed, told reporters in Mogadishu.
Three children aged 8 to 10 and a woman were among the dead, the official said, calling the attack a “real genocide.” Their blanket-wrapped bodies were laid out in a grassy courtyard for display.
It was not clear which foreign forces were blamed for the attack. The U.S. military has stepped up efforts this year against the Somalia-based extremist group al-Shabab, often in support of Somali forces.
The U.S. Africa Command did not immediately respond to questions. But in a reply to a comment on Twitter about the raid and “suspected US air strikes,” the U.S. Africa Command said “the U.S. has not conducted any strikes in the last 24 hours.”
Bodies of civilians, especially those killed in misdirected attacks, often are taken from remote areas of Somalia to Mogadishu to draw media attention.
“These local farmers were attacked by foreign troops while looking after their crops,” the deputy governor told reporters. “The troops could have arrested them because they were unarmed but instead shot them one by one mercilessly.”
Al-Shabab, which has become the deadliest Islamic extremist group in Africa, continues to hold vast areas of rural Somalia after being chased out of major cities in recent years by a multinational African Union force and Somali forces. The group continues to threaten the fragile central government and carry out deadly attacks in neighboring countries, notably Kenya.
Earlier this year, President Donald Trump approved expanded military operations against al-Shabab, including more aggressive airstrikes and considering parts of southern Somalia areas of active hostilities.
The U.S. and Somalia in recent weeks said strikes have killed al-Shabab leaders responsible for planning and executing deadly attacks in Mogadishu, where high-profile areas such as hotels and military checkpoints are often targeted with deadly bombings.