Somalia Says Downing That Killed 11 May Have
According to Belarus
officials, Islamist fighters were responsible for the missile
attack of a large Ilyushin plane in Somalia assisting African Union
peacekeepers that killed 11 people onboard Friday.
The Somali government, however, said the incident looked more
like an accident than an attack by insurgents, reported
"The plane was shot down," Transport Ministry spokeswoman
Kseniya Perestoronina said in Minsk, and was hit at an altitude of
500 feet. As Aero-News reported, the
plane had just taken off from Somalia's main airport in the capital
A Somali radio station and an Islamist website agreed with
Belarus, claiming a missile hit the Russian-made Ilyushin just
after takeoff from Mogadishu.
The aircraft crashed in flames after one of its wings fell into
the Indian Ocean, eyewitnesses said. Captain Paddy Ankunda,
spokesman for the Ugandan peacekeepers in Somalia, confirmed a
If confirmed, it would be the most spectacular strike yet by
rebels fighting the Somali government, their Ethiopian military
allies, and the African Union (AU) force since the start of
However, Somali Interior Minister Mohamed Mahamud Guled said it
was more likely that an accident downed the plane. Guled asserted
the incident had the hallmarks of a technical fault.
"We are waiting for technical experts," he added, without
specifically ruling out an attack on the plane prior to ascent.
"The plane took off at around 5:00, and as soon as it reached
10,000 feet altitude, the pilot reported an engine problem in
engine number two and said he would turn back to the airport,"
Guled said, contrary to what Belarus officials reported.
An airport worker, speaking on condition of anonymity because he
was not authorized to speak to the media, claimed to have seen the
attack on the Russian-built plane. Another witness said he saw one
of the plane's wings fall into the Indian Ocean.
"Nobody knows what exactly has caused the crash. There are
conflicting stories coming from eyewitnesses and we are
investigating," Mohamud told The Associated Press on Saturday.
Mogadishu International Airport Manager Mohmed Ahmed Siyaad said
that before the plane crashed the captain contacted the control
tower and said one of the engines had caught fire.
Only one of the 11 seven crew members and four engineers
initially survived the crash and was found wandering among corpses
and wreckage. He later died in a hospital.
At the crash site, a farmers' hamlet just north of Mogadishu,
wreckage was strewn across an area the size of four football
"I was so scared," said Mahmud Farah, a local born in the area.
"The smoke and the fire coming from the sky was overwhelming.
Everyone though it was going to explode again after it crashed and
so they fled the area. I am 50 years old and this is the first time
I've ever been near a plane."
The downed plane had brought a team to fix another Ilyushin
lying damaged at Mogadishu airport after flying in peacekeepers.
That plane caught fire on the runway in an incident the AU said was
a technical fault, but Islamists said was a missile attack,
according to Reuters.
Fighters believed to be Islamists and disgruntled clan militia
have been striking daily against government forces, Ethiopian
troops, and a contingent of 1,200 Ugandan soldiers in the vanguard
of the African Union force.