UN helicopter and personnel in al Shabaab hands

526

The United Nations (UN), via spokesman Stephane Dujarric, is “concerned” about personnel aboard a helicopter flying under the world body’s flag after it was reportedly seized by al Shabaab militants in Somalia.

The rotorcraft was captured following an emergency landing.

“I can confirm there was an incident involving a UN contracted helicopter today in Galmudug in Somalia,” Dujarric told journalists in New York at a regular Wednesday briefing.

“Response efforts are underway, but I think you will all understand for the sake of the safety of all those involved we are not going to say anymore at this point,” he said, adding “our primary concern is for their safety so we will leave it at that for now.”

Local sources told the BBC that al Shabaab had seized the helicopter along with eight passengers and crew.

A UN memo on the incident seen by Agence France Presse said the helicopter crash-landed about 70 km southeast of Dhusamareb and no United Nations staff were on board as the helicopter was crewed by contract personnel.

One passenger was reportedly killed and two others fled. Several foreigners and two locals were on the helicopter, Somali military official Major Hassan Ali told Reuters.

“It was also carrying medical supplies and it was supposed to transport injured soldiers from Galgudud region,” he was quoted as saying, as the helicopter was to support an offensive against al Shabaab by government troops around the town of Wisil.

Mohamed Abdi Aden Gaboobe, the minister of internal security of the Galmudug state, said the helicopter suffered an engine failure. The official added that six foreigners and one Somali national were onboard.

He told the Associated Press that al Shabab fighters detained five passengers, and another was shot dead while trying to escape. One passenger remained at large.