Somalia ‘gang rape’ investigated by African Union

African Union soldiers
Soldiers from five African nations serve in the AU force in Somalia

The African Union force in Somalia has said it is investigating an alleged gang rape involving its troops in the capital, Mogadishu.

A Somali woman has alleged she was abducted, drugged and repeatedly raped earlier this month by officers from the national army and the AU force.

The allegation has caused outrage in Mogadishu, and there have been protests by women activists.

Rights groups says rape and sexual abuse is a growing problem in Somalia.

Those living in camps for people displaced by conflict and the 2011 famine are most vulnerable, with many cases of rape going unreported because women fear stigma and reprisal.

In March, US-based Human Rights Watch said the abuse often takes place at the hands of armed groups, including government forces, and said the government should do more to tackle the issue.

‘Must face justice’

The African Union mission in Somalia (Amisom) said it took allegations of abuse seriously and reiterated its “commitment to enhancing the safety of women”.

It had set up a joint team with the Somali army “to investigate the matter… and appropriate action will be taken once the facts of the case have been established”, its statement said.

MP Musa Sheikh Omar, deputy chair of the parliamentary committee on human rights and women, told the BBC that investigations so far had found that a married woman was arrested by Somali soldiers and taken to the Amisom barracks in Mogadishu suburb of Maslah earlier this month.

Hospital reports confirmed that the woman, who remains in hospital, had been gang-raped, he told the BBC Somali Service.

Mr Omar said the committee called on the government to make sure that once investigations were completed, those responsible were “brought before the courts”.

In a statement, Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon said the government was “deeply troubled” by the incident, would work to bring justice and “ensure that such crimes do not occur again.”

In January, a woman who alleged she had been raped by members of the Somali security forces was charged with “insulting a state institution”.

Both she and a journalist she had spoken to were convicted and sentenced to terms in jail, though the verdicts were later overturned.

Some 18,000 Amisom troops from five African countries are supporting the government – the first one in more than two decades of conflict to be recognised by the US and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The UN recorded 1,700 rapes in the capital’s 500 camps last year.