Ethiopia admits shooting down African Express Embraer 120

Alan Wilson

Ethiopia admitted shooting down a Kenyan plane carrying humanitarian aid in southwest Somalia. Six passengers were killed in the crash.

The aircraft, an Embraer EMB-120RT registered 5YAXO, took off from Mogadishu Airport (MGQ) and was transporting medical supplies to fight the coronavirus pandemic to Baidoa Airport (BIB), in the southern Bay region on May 4, 2020. It had been chartered by a non-governmental organization. Onboard were two pilots and four passengers.

The plane was 5 kilometers away from its destination airport and had commenced descent when it crashed, killing all occupants. It was reportedly brought down by a surface-to-air missile.

After a week-long investigation, the Ethiopian authorities eventually admitted that their armed forces were responsible for shooting down the aircraft. “The plane had an unusual behavior, flying at low altitude as if it were looking for a target to commit a suicide attack,” justified the authorities. 

The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) made clear that the soldiers involved in the accident were not part of their mission, but of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF). The Ethiopian army is deployed to secure the nearby Bardale military camp, in a region where the Islamist militant group al Shabaab operates. The insurgents had initially been accused but denied the claim.

Ethiopia said it was ready to collaborate with Kenya and Somalia in the investigation.

It is the second time in 2020 when a civilian plane is mistakenly targeted by a military force. On the morning of January 8, 2020, an Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737 crashed shortly after take-off from Tehran International Airport, Iran, after two missiles were shot from a nearby Tor-M1 surface-to-air system operated by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.


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