UN Says Helo ‘Crash Landed’ in Somalia, Reports Hostages Taken by Al-Shabaab

The United Nations said Wednesday that one of its helicopters “crash landed” in Somalia and some passengers were reportedly taken hostage by the militant group Al-Shabaab.

The chopper was carrying nine passengers and crew when it “crash landed” about 70 kilometres (43 miles) southeast of Dhusamareb, the capital of central Galmudug state, according to an internal UN memo seen by AFP.

The incident occurred in territory believed to be under the control of Al-Shabaab and six passengers were reportedly taken hostage by the militant group “although this cannot be independently verified,” read the memo.

It added one passenger was killed in unclear circumstances while two others fled to unknown locations.

The personnel were third-party contractors and not UN staff, the memo said, and one Somali national was involved. The nationalities of the others aboard was not specified.

“All UN flights have been temporarily suspended in the vicinity until further notice,” it stated.

Somali government officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Further details have been sought from the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia.

When asked about the reports, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric confirmed the “incident involved a UN-contracted helicopter that took place today in Galmudug in Somalia.”

“Response efforts are underway,” he told reporters in New York.

“For the sake of the safety of all those on board, we’re not going to say anything more at this point.

“We are fully engaged in trying to resolve it,” Dujarric added.

A separate note sent to one UN agency in Somalia and seen by AFP said there had been a “tragic incident of (a) helicopter crash” in Galmudug but that no UN personnel had been aboard.

Al-Shabaab has led a bloody 16-year insurgency against the fragile central government in Mogadishu, which has struggled to blunt their violence despite considerable foreign military support.

The government launched a concerted offensive against the Al-Qaeda-linked Islamists last year with the backing of local clan militias and air support from the US and African Union forces.

But the effort has stalled and Al-Shabaab still controls swathes of rural Somalia from where they launch attacks against civilian and military targets.

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