March 24, 2007 / 11:04 AM / 12 years ago

Belarus says missile caused Somali plane crash

(Adds details, quotes, background)

MINSK, March 24 (Reuters) - Belarus said on Saturday a missile caused a plane crash in Somalia in which 11 of its citizens were killed.

"The plane was shot down," Transport Ministry spokeswoman Kseniya Perestoronina said.

"The official information we have is that this was a military strike," she said. The plane was hit at a height of 150 metres but the type of weapon used has not yet been identified.

A Somali radio station and Islamist Web site said a missile hit the plane just after take-off from Mogadishu airport on Friday. Somalia’s government said the crash of the Russian-made Ilyushin appeared to have been an accident.

"At present seven people have been identified and the remaining are missing," Perestoronina said.

"Not all of the bodies have been found yet and not all of the bodies have been identified, but there is no chance that somebody could survive such a catastrophe," she said.

The plane was operated by Belarussian firm Transaviaexport. Seven crew members and four engineers were aboard, having arrived in Somalia to repair another Belarussian plane damaged at the start of March.

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