The Somali army says its forces, supported by U.S. troops, mistakenly shot dead 10 Somalis, including three children, during an operation near the town of Bariire early Friday morning.

General Ahmed Jimale Irfid, the Somalia army chief who spoke to VOA exclusively from Mogadishu confirmed that 10 civilians including children and elderly people were killed during a joint raid at a farm in Bariire town, about 55 kilometers southwest of Mogadishu.

“It was not a deliberate action. It was an accident and misunderstanding between the forces and local farmers in the area,” the general said.

Irfid said “It was early Friday morning while it was dark, our forces mistook the local farmers as al-Shabab members; some farmers were armed; there was a shoot-out, we don’t know who started the shooting and that is how the incident started.”

“I can confirm to you those killed in this incident were all civilians and farmers; It is not true that they were al-Shabab members as initially stated by government officials. Their dead bodies were brought to a Mogadishu hospital and anyone can see them if needed” the general said.

Irfid said some U.S. troops were present during the incident, but he said he can’t say if they were among the troops who shot the civilians.

U.S. Africa command said in a statement it was “aware of the civilian casualty allegations near Bariire, Somalia. We take any allegations of civilian casualties seriously, and per standard, we are conducting an assessment into the situation to determine the facts on the ground.”

The general said they are set to meet with U.S. military officials Saturday to discuss on the matter.

General Irfid said he met with the president and the prime minister later on Friday and he said they were both shocked and saddened by civilian deaths and sent their condolences.

“The government has immediately set up a fact-finding committee to look into the incident and why it happened,“ the general said.