Six killed as plane carrying coronavirus aid crashes in Somalia

Former defence minister says cargo plane shot down as it tried to land in the southern town of Bardale.

A plane carrying aid supplies for use in the fight against the coronavirus crashed in Somalia on Monday, 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 news agency that he spoke to a witness at the airfield who said the plane appeared to have been shot down.

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Six people – the pilot, copilot, flight engineer and a trainee pilot, as well as two people working for the airline – were onboard, said Transport Minister Mohamed Salad. Five bodies were recovered so far, he said.

Salad said he sent a unit to investigate that will arrive on Tuesday, and said he welcomed international assistance.

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

“An African [Express] Airways plane from Mogadishu flew to Baidoa and then continued its flight to Bardale town 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, said a witness told him the plane made an initial attempt to land, swung around again because of wildlife on the airfield, and then appeared to be shot on one wing on its second approach.

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

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

 Al-Shabab, the al-Qaeda-linked armed group fighting the Somali government, has a presence in the area and was not immediately available for comment. 

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