The African Union (AU) and its supporters are denying any role in ongoing fighting in Somalia, with the AU saying it is not circumventing any laws while trying to stamp out a sizeable Al-Qaeda and Al-Qaeda-linked insurgency in the country.

Since the fighting began in 2007, over 21,000 people have been killed and 3 million have required humanitarian aid.

Aid agencies and human rights groups say that the AU has been just as guilty as the insurgents when it comes to violence against regular Somalis. The AU denies that claim, saying that terrorists are responsible for those acts.

“We are not at the same level as the terrorists … we are very careful not to shell them when they are among the population,” Boubacar Gaoussou Diarra, the AU’s special representative for Somalia, told reporters in Kenya. “ Al Shabaab move within the population and shell our troops but even in this case, as a peaceful operation, we have to be very careful.”

Al Shabaab is a group linked to Al Qaeda which controls much of central and southern Somalia according to The Washington Post.

The group has been reinforced by U.S.-trained Somali soldiers who have been defecting from the military and joining terrorist ranks, according to Somalian army Col. Ahmed Aden Dhayow. Dhayow told the AP that Somalis troops aren’t receiving their $100 per month wage, making many of them angry enough to join the insurgency.

The U.S. has spent over $14 million on Somali soldiers since 2007 and many fear further U.S. aid could only help to grow the insurgency.