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Ethiopia admits shooting down Kenyan aircraft in Somalia

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The picture shows the crash site of a private cargo plane belonging to African Express Airways in the town of Bardale, in southwestern Somalia, on May 4, 2020. (Via social media)

Ethiopian military forces in Somalia have admitted to shooting down a Kenyan cargo plane carrying aid supplies earlier this week, which resulted in the deaths of all the six people on board.

The Ethiopian army said in a statement to the African Union (AU) on Saturday that the privately-owned Kenyan plane had been shot down by Ethiopian troops guarding a camp in the town of Bardale in southwestern Somalia.

The aircraft, belonging to African Express Airways, was carrying humanitarian and medical supplies to help Somalia in its battle against the new coronavirus outbreak when it went down in Bardale, about 300 kilometers northwest of the country’s capital of Mogadishu, on Monday.

The Ethiopian military said in the statement that the soldiers had mistakenly thought that the plane was on a “potential suicide mission” because they had not been informed about the “unusual flight” and the aircraft was flying low.

“Because of lack of communication and awareness, the aircraft was shot down,” the military said, adding that, “The incident… will require mutual collaborative investigation… from Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya to further understand the truth.”

Six people — the pilot, a copilot, a flight engineer, a trainee pilot, and two other people working for the airline — were on board the Kenyan plane and lost their lives.

Kenya at the time expressed shock over the incident and called for an urgent investigation into the fatal crash.

Ethiopia and Kenya both have soldiers deployed to Somalia as part of an AU peacekeeping mission to fight the armed militant group of al-Shabab.

The al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabab militants were driven out of Mogadishu with the help of AU forces in 2011.

The Takfiri militant group has since lost power in most of its former strongholds; however, it still wields significant influence in vast swathes of the countryside, from where it recruits, coordinates, and launches attacks against government, military, and civilian targets in Somalia and neighboring countries.

Earlier this year, the terrorist group launched an attack against a military base used by US and Kenyan forces in neighboring Kenya.

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