Cargo Plane Is Shot Down in Somalia
By MOHAMED OLAD HASSAN(AP) | March 23, 2007
A cargo plane that had delivered equipment for Ugandan peacekeepers in Mogadishu was shot down Friday by a missile during takeoff at the Somali capital’s airport and crashed in flames, witnesses said.
The airport worker, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said the Russian-built plane was shot down by a missile.
Muse Sheik Osman, who lives in the north of the city, said he saw the burning plane come down and heard the sound of an anti-aircraft missile being fired shortly before the crash.
Capt. Paddy Ankunda, spokesman for the Ugandan peacekeepers in Somalia, said he had heard reports of a plane crash but could not confirm them.
The plane crash came at the end of a particularly violent week in Mogadishu that killed dozens of people, most of them civilians.
Much of the violence halted Friday as a truce took effect between military officials from Ethiopia, which sent troops to neighboring Somalia last year to help overthrow the Islamic movement that had overtaken much of the country, and elders of the dominant clan in Somalia’s capital. Still, sporadic gunfire could be heard around the former defense ministry building in southern Mogadishu, which has been one of the front lines in the two days of fighting.
One civilian was killed early Friday, possibly by a stray bullet, said Mohamed Barre Olad, who lives near the former defense ministry headquarters. Olad saw the body as he walked home. He said he saw also a wounded man being taken to a hospital in a wheelchair.
An elder, Mohammed Ibrahim Aden, told The Associated Press that 25 Hawiye clan elders met with ‘several Ethiopian (military) officials’ late Thursday and agreed to stop hostilities and begin talks.
‘We have asked the Ethiopian officials to pull their troops back from front line areas and force government troops to do the same,’ Aden said. ‘We have also promised on our part to pull our fighters back from the battle fronts.’
Meanwhile, Kenya deported more than 100 people from 19 countries to Somalia after they illegally crossed the border between the two countries during fighting earlier this year. The deportees were subsequently arrested by Ethiopian troops, a human rights group said Friday.
The Kenyan government denied refugee status to the group – which included a U.S. citizen – and even sent its own citizens back to face an uncertain future in a country with no functioning legal system, said the chairman of Muslim Human Rights, Al-Amin Kimathi. Ethiopian forces fighting inside Somalia then took the suspects and flew them to two detention centers inside Ethiopia, he added.
Kimathi said he had received unconfirmed information that three of the deportees had died while in Ethiopian custody.
Government officials had vowed Thursday to continue fighting the insurgents in Mogadishu who they said are led by the newly chosen head of Somalia’s al-Qaida cell, Aden Hashi Ayro. He is one of the people the U.S. targeted in a January airstrike in Somalia.
Ayro is a top leader of the ousted Islamic courts and the government had reports he was in Mogadishu, said Deputy Defense Minister Salad Ali Jelle. The Council of Islamic Courts that Ayro served as military commander and was driven from the capital in December after six months in power. The group has promised to launch an Iraq-style guerrilla war, and mortar attacks pound the capital nearly every day.
On Wednesday, Somali intelligence officials ordered the satellite television station Al-Jazeera to close its Mogadishu office, said Abshir Mohamed, the channel’s head of administration.
Information Minister Madobe Nunow Mohamed told The Associated Press that ‘Al-Jazeera has conveyed the wrong messages to the world.’
‘We will shut down additional radio stations and channels if they distort facts,’ he said.
Somalia has been without an effective central government since 1991. The current administration has failed to assert control throughout the country, and the African Union has deployed a small peacekeeping force to defend it.