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AU mission in Somalia expressed concern over civilian casualties in Kismayo

MOGADISHU, Aug. 17 — The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) is concerned with media reports of civilian casualties in the Al Shabaab-run port city of Kismayo caused by recent military airstrikes, the mission said in a statement.

Reports from Kismayo, 500 km south of the capital Mogadishu, said that a number of people were either killed or wounded following airstrikes launched on targets in the port city.

"We urge all other military forces to exercise due restraint in areas with a substantial civilian population," said Boubacar Diarra, special envoy of the AU Commission.

Daira urged what he called the relevant authorities to expedite investigations into such persistent media reports of civilian casualties as a result of the air raids, saying that AMISOM "did not as yet have any air assets or forces in the city."

"AMISOM takes its responsibility for the safety of the people of Somalia very seriously and fully understands its obligations to conduct operations without causing undue risk to the local population," Diara said.

Kismayo, one of the last major strongholds of Al-Shabaab, is the target of a possible major offensive by Kenyan contingent of the AMISOM troops and Somali government forces.

Kenyan troops crossed over into Somalia to fight Al-Shabaab militants in October last year, but the forces have since been integrated into AU peacekeeping mission in Somalia. The mission is also composed of contingents from countries like Burundi, Djibouti, and Uganda.

Uganda, whose soldiers constitute the bulk of the AMISOM troops, on Sunday lost three of the four helicopters sent for Somalia operations. The aircraft went down in the Kenyan highlands in bad weather.

It would be the first time for the mission to be equipped with an air component since its start in 2007.

The helicopters were to be used for aerial combat against Somali militants, provide aerial escort for convoys, reconnaissance along the supply routes, medical evacuations, air search and rescue operations.

They were also supposed to provide air cover in Somalia to support the AU peacekeeping mission in the East African nation.

The UN-authorized AU mission in Somalia currently deploys nearly 18,000 troops to help stabilize and pacify the troubled Horn of Africa country. (PNA/Xinhua)

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