Sun Aug 27, 2017 01:57PM
Somali security personnel look toward burning vehicles as they secure an area in Mogadishu on July 30, 2017, after a car bomb explosion in the capital. (Photo by AFP)
Somali security personnel look toward burning vehicles as they secure an area in Mogadishu on July 30, 2017, after a car bomb explosion in the capital. (Photo by AFP)

Somali families refuse to bury the bodies of 10 loved ones, including three children, who were recently shot dead when the army supported by US troops carried out an operation in the village of Bariire.

The families say they will not go on with the burial until the government takes responsibility for the killings.

The village is located about 50 kilometers from the capital Mogadishu, and the operation was carried out on Friday.

Ali Nur, the deputy governor of the Lower Shabelle region, said on Sunday that the bodies would be stored until the government compensated the bereaved.

"We refused to bury them because the government has denied and it still has not directly admitted it killed the civilians," Nur said. “The government should admit it killed the civilians and then compensate."

Nur said authorities had converted a refrigerated lobster truck into a mortuary to hold the bodies.

Local elders and ambulance drivers who ferried the bodies confirmed that the dead were stored in the truck.

"The government wants the bodies buried prior to investigation but we will not. We shall have the bodies inside the truck even for a month," said Mohamed Hussein, a village elder.

On Friday, the US Africa Command confirmed that American troops had been involved in the Bariire operation in a supporting role and that the command was probing reports of civilian casualties.

Somalia's military initially said all the dead were members of the Takfiri al- Shabab militant group but later acknowledged some civilians had died.

The government says it has formed a team to investigate the deadly incident.

Dahir Amin Jesow, a lawmaker, said those killed were farmers who had armed themselves against a rival group.

Hassan Mohamed, a cousin of one of the slain people, urged the government to admit responsibility.

“How would you feel if your own government kills your brothers and labels them as militants?" he asked. "We want them to admit, apologize and compensate. Otherwise there will be no peace."

Burundian soldiers with the African Union Mission in Somalia stand to attention in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, July 11, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

US troops were unwittingly drawn into clan fighting in the area. The Bariire operation is likely to draw questions about Washington's growing footprint in the African country.

A US Navy Seal was killed in Somalia in May, the first combat death there since 1993.

The White House has granted the military broader authority to carry out strikes in Somalia against al-Shabab militants.

Somalia has been torn apart by civil war since 1991.

Al-Shabab, an al-Qaeda-aligned militant group, was forced out of the capital by African Union troops in 2011 but still controls parts of the countryside and carries out attacks against government, military and civilian targets.

The group is just one of the challenges facing the new Somali government, which is still struggling to expand its authority beyond the capital and other selected areas.