Somalia's Al Shabaab militants claim to have killed dozens of African Union peacekeepers

A screengrab from Somali-language website shows what militant group Al Shabaab says are the bodies of African Union peacekeepers, killed in Mogadishu.

Al Qaeda-linked Somali militant group Al Shabaab claims to have killed dozens of African Union (AU) peacekeepers on Thursday, in what is being called the "Mogadishu massacre."

Photos posted on a Somali-language news website show lines of at least 20 bodies dressed in military uniform, and surrounded by crowds.

Some of the photos show bibles and crosses being held up to the camera.

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Known as AMISOM, or the African Union Mission in Somalia, peacekeepers have been active in Somalia since 2007 with approval of the United Nations.

The AU peacekeepers in Somalia are mainly from Burundi and Uganda, majority Christian countries.

According to Agence France-Presse, more than 70 dead bodies were displayed outside Mogadishu on Thursday. Angry crowds dragged some of the bodies across the ground, AFP says.

Al Shabaab rebels claimed the bodies were those of African peacekeepers killed during fighting. Most of the peacekeepers killed were Burundian, the militant group said.

"We have killed more than 70 of the enemy soldiers today...We have inflicted heavy losses on them and you can see their dead bodies," Al Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage told AFP.

Intense fighting is reported to have broken out early Thursday in Mogadishu as AU-backed Somali government forces advanced on Al Shabaab positions.

It was previously reported that Al Shabaab had largely withdrawn from Mogadishu, Somalia's capital, because of the severe famine that has hit East Africa this year. 

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