The soldiers of African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) executed 22 civilians in Merca, an old port city located in the southern Lower Shebelle province, local media reported on Tuesday.

Reports claimed that the African Union troops carried out the executions following a grenade attack by suspected Al Shabaab militants. The AU soldiers arrived in the town in dozens of armoured vehicles, Somalia-based news portal HM (Horseed Media) reported on Tuesday morning.

"Soldiers stormed some neighbourhoods. We later found many men, women and children dead," a local elder told the HM.

Merca, also spelled Merka, is located some 70km south of Mogadishu and once was an Al Shabaab stronghold.

Angry local elders told the press that they had nothing to do with the attacks. "They (AMISOM) have a duty to protect, not to attack the population. We are not the ones who attacked them," a village elder said.

Some social media accounts alleged that several young men and elderly were dragged out of mosques and executed by the AMISOM forces during the raid.

Twitter Reactions

Al-Furqaan Media ‏@RadioAlfurqaan1

#BREAKING: #AMISOM troops shelling #Marka town as residents demonstrate against the massacre of 22 civilians incl women & elders #Somalia

Live From Somalia ‏@Tuuryare_Africa

#BREAKING: Big demo starts in #Marka after #AMISOM killed 22 people incl teachers and students. Tires burned down on the streets in the town

Live From Mogadishu ‏@Daudoo

BREAKING: Huge Demo erupts in #Marka town after #AU troops massacred more than 22 civilians today incl women & elders in cold blood #Somalia

Mohamed Bashir Hasan ‏@mbashiir16 

#Somalia: Tension high between residents and @amisomsomalia /SNA in #Marka town after reports of another shooting of civilians.

Genvisec Infomap ‏@GenvisecInfomap

#Somalia At least 16 civilians may have possibly been "executed" by AU troops in #Marka town in apparent retaliation for a grenade attack.

Somalia-America ‏@SomaliEmbassyUS

BREAKING: At least 22 civilians "executed" by AU troops #Ethiopian in #Marka town in apparent retaliation for a grenade attack #Somalia -

Moulid Hujale ‏@MoulidHujale

Any word from @amisomsomalia on why #AMISOM troops killed inocent civilians in #Marka town today? Death toll is said 2b over 22! #Somalia