Militants in Somalia have seized a United Nations helicopter carrying four Ukrainian individuals.
Ukraine’s foreign ministry reported on Friday that four of its citizens were among those taken hostage by al-Shabab rebels in central Somalia. The incident involved a United Nations helicopter.
The helicopter, contracted by the United Nations and carrying nine people, was performing a medical evacuation when it experienced a technical issue and had to make an emergency landing in Hindhere village. This village is under the control of an Islamist group.
“The individuals from our country were part of the helicopter team for the UN Mission in Somalia. … Their names have been confirmed,” stated Oleh Nikolenko, a representative for Ukraine, on his Facebook page.
He stated that the plane was owned by a Ukrainian company that was hired by the United Nations. The government was in communication with the company to coordinate their actions.
According to anonymous security sources, individuals from Egypt, Uganda, and Somalia were among the passengers on the flight. The sources requested to remain unidentified due to the delicate nature of the matter.
The government of Somalia announced on Thursday that they are making efforts to save the hostages. However, military officials stated that it would be challenging due to the area being controlled by an al-Qaida-linked group for over ten years.
According to a leaked internal United Nations memorandum reported by Reuters, one individual was reportedly killed and six were taken hostage during a helicopter incident. The memo stated that two individuals escaped and their current location is unknown.
According to the memo, all United Nations flights in the region have been halted until further notice.
The Ugandan military officials stated that they were not aware of the situation. Attempts to contact the Egyptian government for a response were unsuccessful.
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia reported that a U.N. security guard was fatally wounded in a mortar strike believed to be orchestrated by al-Shabab extremists near Aden Adde International Airport in the capital city.
On Thursday evening, the airport where the U.N. compound is situated was struck by mortar rounds, according to UNSOM.
Attempts to contact Al-Shabab for a response were unsuccessful.
Since 2006, the rebels have been engaged in combat with the government in an effort to impose their own version of Islamic law and gain control over large regions of southern and central Somalia.