By Hassan Isilow
JOHANNESBURG (AA)- Five soldiers attached to the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia have been arrested by police in the capital Mogadishu for selling military supplies, local media have reported.
Somali Police Commissioner Maj. Gen. Mohamed Hassan told the Somali National News Agency that the soldiers attached to the peacekeeping force, known as Amisom, were arrested Sunday while selling fuel, sandbags, and communications equipment out of a garage in Mogadishu.
Amisom confirmed the arrest of its soldiers in a statement Monday, saying it had previously received information that “its soldiers were allegedly involved in illegal activity and acted decisively to investigate the matter in coordination with the Somali police force.”
The peacekeeping mission said the soldiers were arrested in a joint operation conducted by Amisom and the Somali police.
“Amisom exercises zero tolerance for unprofessional conduct among its personnel and the culprits will be prosecuted in accordance with the law,” the statement said.
The 22,000-strong African Union peacekeeping mission, established in 2007, is tasked with fighting the al-Qaeda linked al-Shabaab militant group as well as support the restoration of peace and stability in Somalia.
Somalia has experienced a civil war since 1991 following the overthrow of then-President Mohamed Siad Bare.
The peacekeeping mission did not reveal the nationalities of the peacekeepers arrested, but local police said the implicated troops were from Uganda and Burundi, which have contributed the largest number of troops to the mission.
When reached for comment, Ugandan military spokesperson Col. Paddy Ankunda declined to comment, referring Anadolu Agency to Amisom.
This is the first time that African Union peacekeepers have been arrested in Somalia on allegations of selling military supplies and equipment since the mission was established in 2007.
In 2014, Uganda tried some of its military officers deployed in Somalia for selling fuel meant to be used for running generators and military armored vehicles.
Some local Somalis believe some of the fuel and military equipment sold by Amisom peacekeepers is reaching the hands of al-Shabaab militants whom they are meant to fight.
“The conflict will not end in Somalia so long as some peacekeepers continue to sell their equipment and supplies on the black market,” Mogadishu-based businessman Adeh Mohammed told Anadolu Agency.