Ethiopia Shoots Down Kenyan Plane Carrying Coronavirus Supplies

African Express Airways
Wikimedia Commons

Ethiopian troops have claimed responsibility for shooting down a private Kenyan plane carrying coronavirus medical aid on May 4, the German outlet Deutsche Welle reported on Monday.

Ethiopia shot down the place in Somalia last Monday, killing six people. The African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM), a regional peacekeeping group, has called for an investigation of the incident.

Ethiopian operatives in Somalia claim they shot down the aircraft, an Embraer EMB 120, last Monday after mistaking it for a “suicide attacker” due to its “unusual flight approach,” Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper reported over the weekend.

Loaded with coronavirus medical supplies and other humanitarian aid, the plane crashed while on approach to Bardale airstrip in Somalia, killing its six occupants, Deutsche Welle reported. The Ethiopian troops were guarding the Bardale airstrip — a base known to be used by the Ethiopian military — when they shot down the plane, allegedly with rocket fire. African Express Airways, an airline registered in Kenya, operated the plane.

The aircraft reportedly flew from Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, about 186 miles southeast of Bardale, via Baidoa. The Daily Nation noted that the Somali Civil Aviation Authority gave the plane permission to make a roundtrip flight from Mogadishu to Baidoa and back, but Ethiopian troops claimed they were unaware of this and had not been notified of the flight’s landing in Bardale.

According to the newspaper, the Ethiopian troops said that the aircraft had approached Bardale in an unusual “west-east movement, as opposed to the usual east-west when landing,” and that the plane was flying close to the ground. In addition, the troops said that the flight’s arrival had not been previously communicated to ground control.

“There was no information that the aircraft would be at Bardale … the aircraft was flying out of usual site repeatedly closer to the ground,” Ethiopian military forces said in a statement shared by the Daily Nation.

“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 statement said.

After filing a “preliminary report” on Saturday, AMISON said this week it welcomed a decision from leaders of “Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia to investigate the incident,” according to the newspaper.

Operated by the African Union, AMISOM was formed by U.N. resolution in 2007 to support the Ethiopian government in its efforts against al-Shabaab, a Somali terrorist network in East Africa with links to al-Qaeda.

The Ethiopian forces who downed the plane last Monday are not part of the AMISOM coalition, and their presence in Somalia — revealed through the incident — has raised suspicion from regional authorities.

“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,” AMISOM said in a statement on May 5, according to the Daily Nation.

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