Somali families are refusing to bury the bodies of 10 loved ones, including three children, until the government takes responsibility for killing them in a U.S.-backed military raid, officials said on Sunday.
The ten were shot dead when Somalia’s army, supported by U.S. troops, carried out an operation in Bariire village, about 50 km (30 miles) from the capital on Friday.
Ali Nur, the deputy governor of the surrounding Lower Shabelle region, told Reuters the bodies would be stored until the government pays compensation – a particularly jarring action in a Muslim culture that buries its dead quickly.
“We refused to bury them because the government has denied and it still has not directly admitted it killed the civilians,” Nur told Reuters.
“The government should admit it killed the civilians and then compensate.”
Authorities had converted a refrigerated lobster truck into a mortuary to hold the bodies, he said.
The U.S. Africa Command said on Friday U.S. forces were involved in the Bariire operation in a supporting role and it was investigating reports of civilian casualties. It gave no immediate fresh comment on Sunday.
Somalia’s army initially said all the dead were members of the Islamist al Shabaab militia that it is fighting with help from U.S. and African Union forces – but later acknowledged some civilians had died.