The Ethiopian army has admitted that they were responsible for downing a Kenyan-registered aircraft involved in a COVID-19 medical supplies run, owing to lack of communications and suspicious behaviour.
The African Express Airways Embraer-120 involved in the crash. Photo by Aeroprints on Flickr
AeroNewsX reported on Monday 4th May that the plane was shot down at 15:30 local time, killing all occupants on board and was on course to land in Bardale town. A full investigation is still ongoing and air crash investigators arrived at the crash site on Tuesday, but a statement by Ethiopian troops may shed some light on how the tragedy occurred. In a statement dated the 5th of May and written to the African Union, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) Force Commander defended the actions of the troops, stating that a lack of communication with ground troops, in addition to suspicious aircraft behaviour, ultimately led to the plane being accidentally shot down.
According to the statement, the plane exhibited suspicious behaviour as it flew over the army base. The soldiers then became on edge after failing to ascertain the objective of the cargo flight, due to a breakdown in communications. In the incident report, seen by AeroNewsX, “when an aircraft is arriving at Bardale FOB, the usual landing direction is East to West, but the aircraft was flying from West to East to land over the base camp of Bardale, too close to the ground and even tried to land on ZU 23.” The report goes on to add that because of increased tension in the Southwestern region of Somalia, “the troops concluded that the aircraft was suspected to be a suicide” and could have been an attack attempting to crash on the military base, possibly taking out troops in the process. As the incident was performed by non-AMISOM Ethiopian troops, this will require mutual collaboration from the investigation teams of Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya to further establish the truth of what actually occurred. A full investigation into the incident is still in progress but the statement by Ethiopian forces may add some closure into what has been described as an unfortunate tragedy.