U.N. helicopter crew in Somalia waited in useless for rescue earlier than kidnapping

NAIROBI — The crew of a crashed United Nations helicopter in Somalia waited to be rescued for an hour earlier than being kidnapped, two safety officers in Mogadishu mentioned Thursday, elevating the query whether or not a quicker response might have prevented their seizure.

The U.N. helicopter was on its option to evacuate wounded folks from the city of Wisil when a mechanical downside pressured it down on Wednesday. 9 folks have been on board: 4 Ukrainian crew members, two Kenyan nurses and an Egyptian working for a contractor who supplies emergency medical evaluations. A Somali navy physician and a Ugandan safety officer have been additionally on the plane.

All are lacking and one is presumed useless after the helicopter got here down in an space that may be a stronghold of the Islamist rebel group al-Shabab. The militant group is preventing the Somali authorities and its allies, together with an African Union peacekeeping power, to impose a strict model of Islamic regulation, with punishments similar to stonings, amputations and public lashings.

Somalia’s militant Shabab seize downed U.N. helicopter, at the very least 1 useless

The survivors are believed to be within the custody of the militant group. Neither the United Nations nor the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia, a peacekeeping power often known as ATMIS, has launched particulars of the incident past confirming {that a} helicopter went down.

In line with a timeline supplied by the 2 Mogadishu-based safety officers and messages shared with The Washington Publish, about an hour elapsed earlier than the African Union peacekeeping power — which had one other helicopter close by — was notified that the U.N. helicopter went down. The rationale for the delay was not clear.

The timeline reconstructed by The Publish confirmed that the helicopter was an hour into its flight after refueling when the crew observed uncommon vibrations. An inner U.N. message later mentioned one thing had hit a rotor; a message shared with The Publish indicated that the tip of a blade had come off.

At round 1 p.m. native time, the crew determined to make an emergency touchdown, in line with a message shared with The Publish. Three different officers confirmed the tough timeline. The pilot, one official mentioned, did a superb job of controlling the spin and stopping a lethal crash. All of the officers spoke on the situation of anonymity as a result of they weren’t approved the communicate to the media.

At 1:10 p.m., the crew reported the incident to Mogadishu.

By 1:20 p.m. messages have been flying forwards and backwards about the potential for a rescue flight bringing a brand new blade from the capital, Mogadishu. However even at high pace, it could have taken an Mi-8 helicopter 100 minutes to make the 250-mile journey, assuming there have been no refueling stops. That might permit the crippled helicopter to maneuver out of hostile territory, however the rescue helicopter wouldn’t have had sufficient gasoline to get again to Mogadishu. Even reaching the closest gasoline depot in Beletweyne might have pushed it to the sting of its vary.

The passengers made contact with Mogadishu once more at 2 p.m., and after that decision, the African Union peacekeeping power was knowledgeable of the incident and a request was made to select up the crew, the 2 officers mentioned. There was an African Union helicopter about 80 miles or half-hour away within the city of Wisil with sufficient gasoline to achieve the crash web site. The plan was to fly with 20 Somali troopers who might stand guard whereas repairs have been made.

At 2:16 p.m., because the aid flight was on the brink of take off, one of many folks on the downed helicopter advised Mogadishu that 4 unidentified folks had approached the location however had retreated when the safety officer for the plane cocked his weapon.

Along with the hazards within the lawless area from al-Shabab, clan militias and legal gangs additionally function there. They’ve beforehand kidnapped foreigners and bought them to the very best bidder.

One official expressed frustration that the A.U. flight had not left Wisil earlier, however one other official mentioned the flight had been readied as quickly as potential and that the details about unknown folks across the downed helicopter additionally raised the danger of dropping a second helicopter.

At 2:34 p.m., somebody on the touchdown web site knowledgeable Mogadishu that armed males had captured 5 survivors from the touchdown web site and that one individual had been killed, in line with notes shared with The Publish. The Ugandan safety officer and the Somali physician evaded seize.

At 2:36 p.m., nobody on the touchdown web site was answering their cellphone anymore. By 3 p.m., the helicopter was burning, two of the officers mentioned.

Since then, there was no communication from the folks holding the survivors, mentioned one of many officers with information of the incident. Al-Shabab has additionally not claimed accountability for the assault.

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