KDF aircraft crash-lands in southern Somalia
MOGADISHU, Somalia - A light aircraft crash-landed on Monday evening in Southern Somalia, the Kenya Defense Forces [KDF] confirmed, in yet another incident that involves a Kenyan plane in Somalia, further raising questions about the air transport in the Horn of Africa nation, which is deemed faster and reliable.
Images taken at Dhobley airport showed the plane badly dismembered after catching fire, as bystanders struggled to put off the fire. The airport is located within Sector II of AMISOM jurisdiction, which is manned by the Kenya Defense Forces [KDF] serving in the African Union Mission in Somalia.
In a statement issued by the KDF team, the aircraft registration number Harbin Y-12 (II) was on a routine duty during the incident and was taking off to Nairobi, contrary to earlier claims that it was carrying supplies to KDF troops serving in the Dhobley Operating Base and other FOBs within Sector II. Sector II headquarters are based in Dhobley, few kilometers from the Kenya-Somalia border.
"On August 3, 2020, a KDF aircraft model Harbin Y-12 (II) on routine duties crash-landed at the Dhobley airstrip on take off to Nairobi," KDF said in a statement, which was published on official Twitter account on Tuesday, clearing speculations about the incident.
According to the KDF team, ten military personnel aboard the aircraft were rescued and have since been flown to Nairobi, where they're undergoing treatment at the Defense Forces Memorial Hospital, which is located along Mbagathi Road in Nairobi, near the KDF headquarters in Hurlingham.
"All the 10 military personnel aboard the aircraft are at Defense Forces Memorial Hospital in Nairobi on stable condition. An investigation team is in Dhobley to establish the cause," read the statement, further disputing claims that the pilot and co-pilot had died on spot.
Despite the activation of investigations by KDF, a Somali aviation official told Garowe Online that the plane may have crashed due to rains and poor visibility in Dhobley, which has been receiving unusual climate changes in recent weeks. Authorities have, however, launched investigations to establish the cause of the incident, he added.
"It is purely a natural incident since there was poor visibility orchestrated by heavy rains in Dhobley. However, officials have commenced investigations for the purposes of record-keeping. We send our condolences to all those affected," the official said.
The KDF Sector II AMISOM team operates under the stewardship of Brigadier Paul Njema, who was dispatched by the Kenya Defense Forces to Somalia in February and is expected to help AMISOM implement the Somali Transition Plan next year.
However, Tuesday's incident is the fourth involving a Kenyan plane within the Somalia skies. In May, six people died in Bardale, Southern Somalia when an aircraft they were operating was brought down by Ethiopian National Defense Forces [ENDF]. The Ethiopian team claimed that it had suspected the aircraft.
Later, within the same vicinity, Al-Shabaab militants fired at a Kenyan plane carrying medical supplies within the Bay region, but nobody was injured during the melee. Last month, another Kenyan plane crash-landed in southern Somalia but fortunately, nobody was injured.
KDF team has been helping in peacekeeping in Somalia since 2011 when they first invaded the country until Operation Linda Nchi. A year later, the team was absorbed into AMISOM and mans Sectors II and VI which falls within the federal state of Jubaland.
Last month, Gen. Robert Kibochi, the new Chief of Defense Forces, took the time to interact with soldiers deployed at Bilis Qooqani, Afmadow, Hoosingow, and Tabda Forward Operating Bases, KDF said, while in the company of Sector II Commander Brig. Paul Njema.
"On his 37th day as Chief of the Defence Forces, General Robert Kibochi visited KDF soldiers in Somalia operating under AMISOM. He met soldiers stationed in Afmadhow, Billis Qooqani, Tabda, and Hoosingow," KDF said on Twitter.
"His visit today motivated the troops and reaffirmed the critical role KDF soldiers operating under AMISOM play to provide sustainable peace in Somalia," added the statement, lauding the new chief for his commitment towards motivating the ground troops
KDF is expected to withdraw from Somalia in 2021 with Kibochi saying that the troops will be stationed along the porous Kenya-Somalia border to uplift security. Throughout their stay, despite a few setbacks, the troops have managed to liberate several strategic towns in the Horn of Africa nation.