MOGADISHU, Aug. 26 (Xinhua) -- The Somali and U.S. governments have launched investigations into the death of civilians during a joint security operation on a farm in southern Somalia early on Friday.
In separate statements, the U.S. Africa Command (Africom) and the Somali government admitted there were civilian casualties in the operation conducted near Bariire in Lower Shabelle.
"We are aware of the civilian casualty allegations near Bariire, Somalia. We take any allegations of civilian casualties seriously, and per standard, we are conducting an assessment into the situation to determine the facts on the ground," Africom said in a statement issued on Friday night.
Africom, which has in the past conducted counter-terrorism airstrikes against the terror group in Somalia, confirmed that the Somali National Army was conducting an operation in the area with U.S. forces in a supporting role.
"U.S. forces are in Somalia at the request of the government of Somalia and are committed to helping Somali forces neutralize Al-Shabaab and bring stability to the region," it said.
The statement comes after the Somalia military said eight Al-Shabaab militants were killed during the joint security operation.
The military said the SNA carried out an operation against a farm in Bariire with known Al-Shabaab presence.
"Al-Shabaab started shooting at SNA forces after our soldiers entered the farm," SNA General Sheegow (20th Brigade Commander) said.
"The individuals shooting at the SNA soldiers were Al-Shabaab fighters; they were not farmers. We talked to the farmers in the area and instructed them to put their weapons in their homes to avoid confusion."
However, the government later clarified that it appeared there were different security operations that took place in the area that resulted in the death of civilians.
"We also understand that there are civilian casualties in which the government is investigating to find out the truth about this. We urge Somali people to cooperate fully with the government on this matter," said ministry of information said.
Local reports said at least 10 civilians, including a woman and a child, were killed during the raid by foreign and Somali forces on a farm in southern Somalia.
The deputy governor of Lower Shabelle region, Ali Nur Mohamed, said the farmers were killed "one by one" after soldiers stormed the farm in Bariire village early Friday.
The militants have recently increased their attacks against Africa Union and Somali forces especially in Mogadishu and southern Somalia, which have seen a surge of attacks that resulted in the loss of several strategic towns although the militants mainly held those towns briefly.
The AMISOM and Somali forces backed by U.S. military have also increased airstrikes in southern Somalia in the recent past, resulting in the killing of several militants and some defections.