Kenyan Aircraft Carrying Aid Shot At Landing In Somalia

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A twin-engine turboprop flying medical supplies into Somalia was shot at on Monday, May 25. The aircraft was approaching Qansax Dheere, a town in the southern Bay region of Somalia when several bullets are reported to have hit the plane. No one was injured.

let-l-410-somalia
A LET L-410 similar to the one shot at in Somalia on Monday. Photo: Aleksander Markin via Flickr.

Shots fired at aid plane

A report in The Aviation Herald identifies the plane as a LET L-410 (registration 5Y-VVA) that belongs to the Kenya School of Flying. Flight tracking sites are unable to provide data on this aircraft.

According to The Aviation Herald, the aircraft was 3.8 nautical miles out from the landing strip at Qansax Dheere when it was shot at and struck multiple times. The plane managed to land safely.

The same report says the crew was arrested by Somalia’s National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) after landing and had their mobile phones confiscated.

The report has also published a picture of where one of the bullets struck the fuselage. The veracity of this photo is uncertain, given the jagged edges of the hole are facing outward rather than inward.

A further report in Garowe Online places the time of the incident around 11:00 (local time). This report says the aircraft was carrying supplies from the United Nation’s World Food Program. It was the second plane that day carrying aid supplies to land at the airstrip.

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Not militants, rather trigger happy troops

Local officials initially blamed Al-Shabaab, a militant Islamic group allied to Al-Qaida. The Mayor of Qansax Dheere, Abdirazack Abdi Ibrahim, told Voice of America radio that he believed Al-Shabaab was responsible for the attack.

But Somali media dismissed this, saying there has been no Al-Shabaab activity in the area for years. Instead, they point the finger at Ethiopian National Defense Force troops who control the Qansax Dheere airstrip and incorrectly identified the plane.

This later theory is lent credence by the (albeit unconfirmed) reports that the crew was arrested after landing. According to Garowe Online, the Ethiopian forces, have been linked to “improper conduct targeting friendly nations in Somalia.”

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The Ethiopians have form in this area

It is the second time in a matter of weeks that the Ethiopian forces have been tied to shooting at Kenyan aircraft in Somalia. On May 4, an Embraer EMB-120 belonging to East African Express Airways was on approach to Bardale when it was shot down by Ethiopian forces using what is believed to be a rocket-propelled grenade.

Bardale is 160 kilometers distant from Qansax Dheere. Both airstrips are controlled by Ethiopian National Defense Force troops. The plane was carrying four passengers, two crew, and medical supplies. All died in the crash after the RPG hit the plane. The Ethiopian forces claim it was a case of mistaken identity.

“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 forces. There is no information that the aircraft would be a Bardale,” said the Ethiopian AMISON Sector III commander at the time.

The region is said to have a strained relationship with neighbour, Kenya. But the presence of Ethiopian troops in Somali is also controversial. Shooting at civilian aid planes won’t help things.

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