The Kenyan foreign ministry called for a speedy investigation after a humanitarian plane helping to fight the coronavirus crashed in Somalia in “unclear” circumstances, killing the six people on board.
The Kenyan private cargo plane was undertaking a humanitarian mission linked to a pandemic when it crashed Monday afternoon in the Bardale district of southern Somalia, about 300 km (180 miles) northwest of the Somali capital Mogadishu, the ministry announced on Tuesday.
“The plane was about to land on the Bardale airstrip when it crashed and caught fire. The six on board are dead, “Abdulahi Isack, a local police official, told AFP news agency.
“We are not sure what caused the plane carrying the medical supplies to crash, but an investigation is underway to establish the details. “
Kenya urged Somalia “to investigate the matter thoroughly and promptly as it affects humanitarian operations at a time of greatest need”.
“The incident happened under unclear circumstances,” the foreign ministry said in a statement, expressing “deep shock and regret” and condolences to the families of the deceased.
“Kenya and other humanitarian aircraft operating in the region are also urged to strengthen additional precautions given the unclear circumstances surrounding the incident,” the ministry said.
The al-Shabab armed group is active in southern Somalia, but the area where the accident occurred is under the control of the Ethiopian government and troops.
Soldiers from Ethiopia and Kenya are among those deployed to Somalia on an African Union (AU) peacekeeping mission to combat the armed rebellion.
A spokesman for the Ethiopian National Defense Forces said he had no information about the accident and referred questions to “commanders of the armed forces in Somalia”.
In a statement, the Somali Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation expressed “deep regret” for the accident and said the government was carrying out a “thorough investigation”.
He said the twin-engine Embraer 120 was operated by African Express, headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya.
A projectile fired from the ground struck the plane as it approached the runway, Ahmed Isaq, an official with the Southwestern state administration, told the Associated Press agency.
The crash comes amidst strained ties between Kenya and Somalia.
Last month, Kenya accused Somali troops of an “unjustified attack” on its border near Mandera, a town far to the north, calling the incident provocative.
Somalia has long accused its big neighbor of interfering in its internal affairs, which Kenya has denied.