Kenya urges Somalia to speedily investigate fatal plane crash

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya on Tuesday called for an urgent investigation into the fatal crash of a private cargo plane in Somalia amid unconfirmed reports it may have been shot down.

The plane belonged to African Express Airways and was ferrying supplies for use in the fight against the coronavirus when it crashed in the town of Bardale, in the southern Bay region, killing six crew members.

“The Government of the Republic of Kenya urges the Federal Government of Somalia and International Agencies to thoroughly and swiftly investigate the matter because it impacts humanitarian operations at a time of highest need,” a statement from Kenya’s foreign affairs ministry said.

A second statement said Somalia’s president Mohamed Abdullahi - nicknamed Farmajo - had ordered Somalia’s civil aviation authorities work with Kenya on their investigation.

“President Farmajo invited the Kenyan civil aviation authorities to team with their Somalia counterparts with a view to completing the investigations expeditiously,” the foreign affairs ministry said.

Somalia’s al Qaeda-linked insurgency al Shabaab has a presence in the area where the plane came down, although the town of Bardale, in the southern Bay region, and its airfield is secured by Somali forces and Ethiopian troops.

Somalia’s Transport Minister Mohamed Salad declined on Monday to speculate on the cause of the crash, but a former defence minister told Reuters he had spoken to a witness at the airfield who said it may have been shot down.

The spokesman for the Ethiopian army had said on Monday he was unaware of the crash.

The al Shabaab group was not immediately available for comment.

Reporting by Duncan Miriri; Writing by George Obulutsa; Editing by Katharine Houreld, William Maclean