NAIROBI—The ill-fated African Express Type E-120 that killed six Kenyans in Somalia earlier this week was shot down by Ethiopian forces. They said they mistook it for a plane “on a suicide mission.”
A preliminary report filed by the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) revealed that the forces guarding Bardelle airstrip in Baidoa said they had no prior information on civilian plane flying into the airstrip.
“There was no information that the aircraft would be at Bardelle… the aircraft was flying out of usual site repeatedly closer to the ground,” the Ethiopian forces said.
It added that “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.”
The aircraft, 5Y-AXO, was given the green-light by the Somali Civil Aviation to fly from Mogadishu to Baidoa, but the Ethiopians maintain lack of communication and unusual route taken by the plane caused the “accident.”
“Because of lack of communication and awareness, the aircraft was shot down and thre Kenyan and two Somali citizens died in the incident,” Amisom headquarters in Mogadishu said.
“The incident was performed by non-Amisom troops of Ethiopia, which will require mutual collaborative investigation team from Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya to further understand the truth,” the preliminary report submitted to the Amisom boss, Francisco Madeira on May 5 says in part.
On Tuesday, Somalia’s president has promised his Kenyan counterpart a “thorough investigation” into the deadly crash of a Kenyan plane carrying medical supplies in Somalia.
The Kenyan Civil Aviation Authority said the twin-engine plane with African Express crashed Monday afternoon on approach to Bardale “under circumstances we are yet to confirm.”
A projectile fired from the ground hit the plane as it approached the airstrip in Bay region, Ahmed isaq, a local official with the Southwestern State regional administration, told The Associated Press.
The airstrip is a base for the Ethiopian military under the multinational African Union mission, which is combating the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab extremist group. The group controls parts of rural southern and central Somalia.
There was no immediate comment from Ethiopian authorities Tuesday.
The plane had left Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, and stopped in Baidoa before going on toward Bardale, the Kenyan statement said. Kenyan authorities said they were in contact with the Somali Civil Aviation Authority.
Somalia’s transport ministry called the crash “a terrible accident” and said the government was investigating.
Somali President Abdullahi Mohamed Abdullahi in a phone call with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta offered his support and condolences, Somalia’s foreign ministry said.