- The Washington Times - Friday, March 23, 2007

MOGADISHU, Somalia — A cargo plane that had delivered equipment for Ugandan peacekeepers in the Somali capital was shot down by a missile during takeoff yesterday, the owner of the plane said. A witness said the aircraft crashed in flames after one of its wings fell into the Indian Ocean.

All 11 persons on board the plane were killed, a Red Cross-Red Crescent official told Agence France-Presse.

“All the 11 are dead. Ten died on the spot and one died in hospital,” the official, who asked not to be named, said today.

Egi Azarian, the acting head of Belarus-based Transaviaexport, confirmed that the company’s plane was shot down yesterday. Transaviaexport, based in Minsk, Belarus, operates only Ilyushin-76s, one of the largest cargo planes in the world. The aircraft requires a crew of six, is 153 feet long and can carry nearly 50 tons of cargo.

Muse Sheik Osman, who lives in northern Mogadishu, said he heard the sound of an anti-aircraft missile being fired and saw the burning plane come down.

Capt. Paddy Ankunda, spokesman for the Ugandan peacekeepers in Somalia, confirmed a crash.

A plane carrying several African Union peacekeepers made an emergency landing on March 9. An Islamic group claimed it had hit that plane with a missile. Four days later, a Belarus official confirmed the plane had been hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.

Yesterday’s crash came at the end of a particularly violent week in Mogadishu during which dozens of people were killed, most of them civilians.

The United Nation’s Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that it received reports of thousands of Mogadishu residents fleeing to nearby towns.

Much of the violence halted yesterday 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.

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. Those deported were subsequently arrested by Ethiopian troops, a human rights group said yesterday.

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