Cargo plane "shot down" in Somalia, all occupants killed
BERDALE, Somalia - Six people among them two Kenyan pilots died instantly on Monday when their aircraft crashed in southern Somalia, local officials said, in yet another incident that could ignite tensions within the war-torn nation.
The aircraft, Embraer 120-5Y AXO crashed in Bardale airport in Bay region within the tension-prone Southwest state of Somalia, authorities said, noting that it was just three minutes away from landing.
Registered under aviation giants Africa Express, the cargo plane, which loaded with among others, medical supplies and mosquito nets to Bardale. Somalia is currently combating Coronavirus and flash floods, which have displaced thousands in recent months.
Southwest regional transportation minister Hassan Hussein said "it's terrible, we've lost all the six passengers. We've established that nobody survived". The cause of the incident is still being investigated, added the official.
Photos taken from the site shows a completely dismembered aircraft, with no sign of life. Some military officials donned in Ethiopia National Defense Forces garments were captured at the site of the crash.
According to the official, the plane was chartered by an NGO operating within Somalia and it crashed at 3:45 pm local time. The plane, some sources told Garowe Online, was about three minutes from landing at the Bardale airport which is manned by ENDF.
At the time of crashing, multiple sources confirmed, the aircraft was flying at 2,230 ft above sea level, another confirmation that it was just about to land. The airport is secured than other regions across Somalia due to the huge presence of Ethiopian troops.
Abdirahman Aden Ibbi, a Somali MP who is a co-owner of African Express said the plane was flying from Baidoa, the regional administrative capital of Southwest to Bardale, and that "it was shot from 5 kilometers away from the airport".
The two Kenyan pilots, a flight engineer, and three other people on board perished on the spot. The Ethiopian troops immediately secured the site of the crash for further investigation, authorities added.
Investigations by Garowe Online established that the aircraft is owned by Muse Bulhan, a Kenyan national entrepreneur, who has massively invested in the aviation industry. The African Express also owns seven other aircraft but it could not be established if they are also linked to the business mogul.
Further reports indicate that Muse Bulhan, the owner of the aircraft, was among those killed. Others include Capt. Mubruuk, Capt. Omar, cargo handler Ali Madah Gadud, and the plane agent in Baidoa Saed Abdullahi Mohamed.
Most probably, the plane was cleared by both Somali and Kenyan aviation controllers before flying medical supplies and mosquito nets, Rashid Andi, a security analyst for the Horn of Africa noted.
Sources within Kenya security forces claim the plane was shot down by a projectile, probably a Rocket Propelled Grenade [RPG] which was fired from the land at Bardale. However, this cannot be independently verified by Garowe Online.
But with ENDF controlling the airport, multiple sources have pointed an accusing finger to the Ethiopian troops, but Al-Shabaab cannot be ruled out since it controls sections of Bardale town in the Southwest state.
Zacharias Zelalem, an Ethiopian journalist, claimed that preliminary reports indicate that ENDF troops were behind downing of the plane, adding that "clarification by them is highly unlikely".
"Ethiopian is quick to issue communiques when its forces launch airstrikes against Al Shabab militants. Reports state that Ethiopian forces are behind the downing of this NGO chartered plane, killing 6. Clarification by Ethiopia is unlikely," added Zelalem.
But in a conversation with Maj. General Mohamed Tessema, the ENDF communication officer, the journalist was told that "I know nothing about the downing of the aircraft by our forces, speak to Division Command Officer".
Yusuf Gabobe, another top Ethiopian journalist, insisted that "the aircraft was brought down by Ethiopian forces" without giving any tangible evidence. Captain Muse is one of the pioneer entrepreneurs in Kenya and is of first Africans to own an aircraft.
In recent months, tensions have been brewing between KDF and ENDF due to conflicting interests, especially in Jubaland state. While the former supports Jubaland regional forces, the latter is a dalliance to Somali National Army [SNA].
In February, President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo dispatched SNA troops to parts of Gedo in a move which was criticized as "unnecessary" by both the US and Kenya. He's been at loggerheads with regional leader Ahmed Madobe.
Recently, Ethiopian non-AMISOM troops were sighted in Doolow in Gedo, where they established a base, perhaps in preparation to help SNA "liberate" the region from Jubaland authorities. KDF is keen to help Madobe from any "external" aggression.
The minor misunderstanding, the US warned, could pave room for Al-Shabaab resurgence. Even though there are talks to quell the tensions, ENDF and FGS have often accused KDF of turning away an Ethiopian aircraft from landing in Kismayo last August when the state went for polls in which Madobe was declared the winner.