A cargo plane with ten passengers crash landed in Somalia in a territory controlled by al-Shabaab Islamists on the outskirts of the capital Mogadishu, a government source said Thursday.
The aircraft reportedly had departed from Nairobi and was heading to Ballidogle, an air base 60 miles west of Mogadishu, carrying supplies for peacekeeping forces in Somalia.
The German DPA news agency reported Wednesday evening that the cargo plane was a U.S. aircraft carrying 12 military personnel and that al-Shabaab had taken the survivors hostage. The Pentagon denied the presence of U.S. citizens aboard the plane.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Defense (DOD) acknowledged that there had been a plane crash in Somalia, but said that the aircraft was carrying no U.S. soldiers or American civilians.
The accident took place Wednesday in the village of Omar Bere, 30 miles south of Mogadishu, and according to reports, the downed aircraft was surrounded by Al-Shabaab gunmen and is now in their possession.
Unidentified sources told Voice of America that the plane had been chartered by contractors working with security operations in Somalia. The deputy commissioner of the Afgoye district, Abdullahi Hassan Abdi, said he did not know if the passengers are dead or alive.
“We have confirmation that a plane crashed in an area controlled by al-Shabaab in the province of Lower Shabelle,” said Mohamed Hussein, a government official. “We assume that the wreckage of the aircraft and any possible survivors are in the hands of the militants,” he added. No information has been provided regarding the cause of the crash.
Abdulkadir Nor Sidi, mayor of the region of Lower Shabelle, confirmed that the plane had crashed in an area controlled by the al-Shabaab jihadist group with ties to al-Qaeda.
“We can confirm that the plane crashed in an area controlled by the militants. We have deployed Somali troops and we are trying to have more details about the incident,” the mayor said.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.