Kenya’s foreign ministry has called for a swift investigation after a humanitarian plane helping the fight against the coronavirus crashed in Somalia in “unclear” circumstances, killing all six people on board.
The Kenyan private cargo plane was undertaking a humanitarian mission related to pandemic when it crashed on Monday afternoon in Bardale district in southern Somalia, about 300km (180 miles) northwest of Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, the ministry said on Tuesday.
“The aircraft was about to land at the Bardale airstrip when it crashed and burst into flames. All six people on board died,” Abdulahi Isack, a local police official, told AFP news agency.
“We don’t know what exactly caused the aircraft carrying medical supplies to crash, but there is an investigation going on to establish the details.”
Kenya urged Somalia “to thoroughly and swiftly investigate the matter because it impacts humanitarian operations at a time of highest need”.
“The incident occurred under unclear circumstances,” the foreign ministry said in a statement, expressing “deep shock and regret” and offering condolences to the families of the deceased.
“Kenyan and other humanitarian aircraft operating in the region are also urged to enhance extra precaution in light of the unclear circumstances surrounding the incident,” the ministry said.
The al-Shabab armed group is active in southern Somalia, but the area where the crash occurred is under the control of the government and Ethiopian troops.
Soldiers from Ethiopia and Kenya are among those deployed to Somalia as part of an African Union (AU) peacekeeping mission to fight armed rebellion.
A spokesman for the Ethiopian National Defence Force said he had no information about the crash and referred questions to “armed force commanders in Somalia”.
In a statement, Somalia’s transport and civil aviation ministry expressed its “deep regret” over the crash and said the government was conducting a “thorough investigation”.
It said the Embraer 120 twin-turboprop was operated by African Express, which has its headquarters in Kenya’s Nairobi.
A projectile fired from the ground hit the plane as it approached the airstrip, Ahmed Isaq, a South West State regional administration official, told The Associated Press news agency.
The crash comes amid strained ties between Kenya and Somalia.
Last month, Kenya accused Somali troops of an “unwarranted attack” over its border near Mandera, a northern outpost town, describing the incident as a provocation.
Somalia has meanwhile long accused its larger neighbour of meddling in its internal affairs, something Kenya has denied.