Coronavirus aid aircraft crashes in Somalia

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An aircraft carrying supplies for the fight against coronavirus crashed in Somalia killing all six people on board, the Somali transport minister said.

He declined to speculate on the cause of the crash, but a former defence minister told Reuters he  spoke to a witness at the airfield who said it appeared to have been shot down.

Somalia’s al Qaeda-linked insurgency al Shabaab has a presence in the area where the aircraft came down, although Bardale, in the southern Bay region, and its airfield is secured by Somali forces and Ethiopian troops.

Six people — the pilot, co-pilot, flight engineer and a trainee pilot, as well as two people working for the airline — were aboard, Transport Minister Mohamed Salad told Reuters. Five bodies have been recovered so far.

Salad was sending a unit to investigate and welcomed international assistance.

State-run Somalia News Agency said the aircraft belonged to African Express Airways and was ferrying supplies for use in the fight against coronavirus.

“An African Express Airways aircraft from Mogadishu flew to Baidoa and continued to Bardale where it crashed,” the agency said on its website. “It is not clear why it crashed.”

Abdirashid Abdullahi Mohamed, Somalia’s former minister of defence, told Reuters he spoke to a witness at the airfield who said the plane made an initial attempt to land, swung around due to wildlife on the runway and then appeared to be shot in one wing on its second approach.

He provided pictures showing the aircraft in flames, pieces scattered over a small area and its tail intact and provided a passenger list with six names. Reuters was unable to immediately verify images or confirm names.

Ethiopia has troops in Baidoa and Bardale as part of an African Union peacekeeping mission. A spokesman for the Ethiopian army said he was unaware of the crash.