NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — A Kenyan soldier is being investigated for allegedly shooting dead six Somalis believed to be civilians caught up in the ongoing battle between allied African troops and extremist insurgents in Somalia, an official said Monday
The soldier allegedly fired at a group of people on Sunday who approached a defensive position the Kenyan army had set up in the southern town of Jana Cabdalla, said Kenya’s military spokesman Col. Cyrus Oguna. Kenyan troops earlier this month captured Jana Cabdalla from the al-Shabab Islamist radical rebels.
‘‘The soldier was immediately disarmed and has since been put on guarded seclusion,’’ Oguna said in a statement.
Kenyan troops are part of the African Union force supporting Somalia’s internationally backed government that is battling an insurgency from al-Shabab, which is affiliated to al-Qaida. Somalia has been in chaos since 1991 when warlords overthrew a longtime dictator and then turned on each other.
A team of African Union commanders, Somali troops and local leaders are working together to investigate the incident, said Oguna. He did not say when the team will present the outcome of their probe.
Since November 2011 Kenya’s military has been investigating a separate incident in which the navy shot at a boat, killing four men they believed were Somali militants but who may have been Kenyan fishermen plying their trade along the coast.
Oguna said a committee of military investigators looking into the early November incident has not come up with findings but will make them public when they do. He said those in the boat defied an order to stop and surrender and it was not clear whether they were Kenyan fishermen.
At the time government had announced that any speedboat that disobeyed orders to stop by Kenyan security personnel would be ‘‘disabled.’’ That policy followed the kidnapping a French woman who was taken by Somali militants. The French tourist — a disabled woman — died in captivity.
Kenya launched an offensive against al-Shabab rebels in October after a string of kidnappings by Somali gunmen, including those of four Europeans, in Kenya. The government said the kidnappings threaten tourism, a key driver of Kenya’s economy. Al-Shabab has threatened to retaliate against Kenya’s military incursion with suicide bombings in Kenya’s capital.
In July, Kenyan troops became part of the African Union troops, mainly made up of Ugandan and Burundian troops, which were already supporting the Somalia’s weak government from the al-Shabab insurgency.
Oguna said Kenyan troops are closing in on the port city of Kismayo, al-Shabab’s last remaining stronghold, after militants lost much of the territory they held in southern Somalia to the allied African troops.