A plane crash-landed in the Somali capital city of Mogadishu Friday, killing four people when the aircraft burst into flames on the tarmac of Aden Adde International Airport. All six onboard were crew members; the two survivors are being treated at an African Union hospital in the city.
The cargo plane was owned by the Ethiopian Air Force and was carrying ammunition intended for troops fighting with the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM), which is working with the Somali military to combat the al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group al-Shabab. The crash, which occurred just before 8 a.m. local time, sent plumes of black smoke billowing over Mogadishu. The Somali airport has a poor safety record, and it is likely that the ammunition on board contributed to the strength of the explosion. Investigations into the cause of the tragedy are ongoing.
"The Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission for Somalia, Ambassador Mahamat Saleh Annadif expressed his heartfelt condolences to the Government and people of Ethiopia following the loss of lives and wished quick recovery for the injured crew members," said a statement from AMISOM.
Ethiopia does not contribute peacekeeping forces to AMISOM, but it does send troops to assist the Somali army and has a long history of opposing al-Shabab. In 2006, the Ethiopian military invaded Mogadishu to oust the Islamic Courts Union, formerly a political wing of al-Shabab. That incident played a pivotal role in helping to further radicalize the Islamist fighters in Somalia. AMISOM forces have greatly weakened al-Shabab over the past few years, but threats remain and clashes continue. On Tuesday, AMISOM troops thwarted the militants' plan to launch an attack in the southern city of Afmadow. AU and Somali troops killed 24 rebels and seized a cache of weapons.
Al-Shabab responded to Friday's plane crash on its Twitter account, noting that "the huge blaze thwarted, by the will of Allah alone, the plots of the enemy invaders and even engulfed some of their crew members on board." Somalia’s Deputy Information Minister Abdishakur Mire said during a press conference that the crash likely resulted from a technical problem. "Because of the disaster that happened today, we have halted all flights coming and going from Mogadishu airport,” he added, according to Radio France Internationale.