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Another Kenyan aircraft shot at in Somalia, no casualties reported

By Abuga Makori in Nairobi , Garowe Online

MOGADISHU, Somalia - For the second time within this month, a plane registered in Kenya was shot at within war-torn Somalia, in yet another incident that could diminish the fragile relationship between the two neighboring countries.

The plane, 5Y-VVA was shot at while almost landing at Qansahdheere airport within the Bay region but no casualties were reported. Bay region is found within the troubled Southwest state of Somalia.

According to the report, the plane was carrying humanitarian aid to Qansahdheere but came under fire from unknown gunmen before landing. It did not crash and all those aboard disembarked safely, multiple sources confirmed.

Some of the photos taken from the scene showed bullet holes on the cabin and wings, but it was not badly damaged. The number of passengers could not be immediately established but such aircraft carry a minimal number of people, usually the crew and aid workers.

Local officials pointed an accusing finger to the Al-Shabaab, an Islamic militant group allied to Al-Qaida. But a quick search and multiple security reports do not indicate any history of Al-Shabaab within Qansahdere in Bay region, a move that could rule out the narrative.

Abdirazak Abdi Ibrahim, the mayor of Qansahdheere, told Voice of America that the plane was about 7 kilometers away from landing before it came under attack. According to him, suspected Al-Shabaab militants used motorcycles to get closer to the airport before firing.

The aircraft was carrying WFP nutrition supplies and was among the two scheduled to land in the region. The first aircraft delivered medical and food supplies at around 9 am local time before the second one came under attack at around 11 am, Sector-III commander said.

But unconfirmed reports indicate that the crew on the plane were arrested by National Intelligence Security Agency [NISA] operatives within the Bay region, besides having their cell phones confiscated.

Even more incriminating, the Qansahdere region is under the jurisdiction of Ethiopian National Defense Forces [ENDF], who has lately been linked to "improper" conduct by targeting friendly nations in Somalia.

According to reports which could borrow be independently verified by Garowe Online, the troops stationed near the airport, fired at the aircraft. There has been no formal statement from both the ENDF and the federal government of Somalia following the incident.

Early this month, a contingent of ENDF troops who are not part of the AMISOM component, shot down a Kenyan aircraft Amber 120-5Y AXO minutes before landing at Bardale airport in Southwest state, leaving six people dead. The aircraft was supplying medical aid from Baidoa.

A preliminary report filed by African Union Mission in Somalia [AMISOM] indicated that the Ethiopian troops had admitted shooting the plane, blaming the unprecedented incident on "mistaken identity".

According to the report, the ENDF troops guarding Bardale airport, about 300km northwest of Mogadishu, adjudged the plane’s unusual flight towards the facility as a potential suicide mission by the Al-Shabaab militants.

In defense, the AMISOM Sector III commander claimed his team did not have prior communication of the incoming flight at that particular time, leading to the confusion and ultimate firing of the killer missile.

“There was no information that the aircraft would be at Bardale… the aircraft was flying out of usual site repeatedly closer to the ground,” the Ethiopian forces said in a rare admission, just six days after the accident.

“The troops suspected that the aircraft was a suicide attacker and seeking a target to attack. Due to the above reason, the African Express Type E-120 was shot down by our force.”

Francisco Madeira, the AMISOM chief in Somalia, conceded that there were a number of non-AMISOM Ethiopian troops in the Horn of Africa nation, whose presence has been controversial given that they have no express authority to launch operations in the country.

Kenya, which has been a target of the ENDF and FGS clandestine activities, was invited by President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo to be part of the team investigating the cause of the crash. Both Kenya and Ethiopia are integral in the quest for peace and stability in Somalia.

At the Gedo region, which is the epicenter of the crisis between Kenya Defense Forces [KDF] and the FGS, international partners have called for a ceasefire.

The FGS is said to have invited the non-AMISOM Ethiopian troops to "safeguard" the region to its strained relationship with regional leader Ahmed Madobe, a close ally of Nairobi.

Air transport is common in Somalia due to poor infrastructural development. Non-governmental organizations usually prefer using chartered aircraft while supplying medical aid, but the recent development could further sabotage such operations.

Somalia is currently struggling with the coronavirus pandemic, which has left over 1600 people infected. Besides the pandemic, the war-torn nation of facing perennial flash floods, locust invasion, and Al-Shabaab menace.


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