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Captain of ill-fated aircraft hoped to be with family

Wednesday May 6, 2020

Captain Mabruk Islam Sherman spoke to his wife and three children around noon, informing them of his trip to Somalia.

He told them he would be home by Thursday. That was not to be.

The captain and co-pilot Omar Chiraghdin were identified as the two Kenyans who died when a small plane was reportedly shot down in Somalia.

The two were with four Somalia nationals aboard the Embraer 5Y-AXO plane owned by African Express Airways.

They were transporting supplies for use in the fight against the coronavirus when the plane was brought down in Bardale.

Eyewitnesses reported that the light Kenyan-registered aircraft appeared to have been shot down as it was landing.
Al-Shabaab has a presence in the area where the aircraft came down, though Bardale and its airfield are secured by Somali National Army soldiers and Ethiopian troops, Reuters reported.

Kenya has demanded from Somalia swift investigations into the incident, warning that it could harm aid delivery to the war-torn Horn of African country.

The pilot’s father Islam Sherman yesterday said he received the news with shock.

“We talked and he said he would be in Mombasa by Thursday. It is unfortunate I cannot see my son again,” Mr Sherman said at his house in Ganjoni, Mombasa.

Mabruk, 32, had been in Somalia for a month as there was little work.

The trip would allow him and his co-pilot to return to their families in Kenya.

The father of three attained the captain position just months ago, family members told the Nation Tuesday

Mr Chiraghdin was learning from Mr Mabruk as they worked together in Somalia.

“The two were very close. In fact, they were like brothers,” Mabruk’s brother Jamil Islam said.

The families of the two men said the government had not told them much about the crash and how the bodies could be flown home.

They accused the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) of not being “friendly”.

“We request the government to help us get the bodies. The families have been told that some people got out of the plane before it caught fire,” Mr Sherman said as he fought back tears.

Mr Mohammed Tenge, a relative, urged the government to follow up on the investigations and inform Kenyans and the families what happened.

Mr Tenge, who is also a politician, said it is unfortunate that young souls have been lost in unclear circumstances.

“Kenyan authorities must get to the bottom of this incident,” he said.

“Families should not continue losing members this way. Please let us know what happened so that the families can have some closure. This is a big loss to the people of Mombasa.”

Kenyan officials have urged Somalia to investigate the crash.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, working with other agencies, shall keenly monitor investigations into this tragic incident and will collaborate with all to bring closure and resolution,” a statement released by the ministry said.

Officials also urged Kenyan and other humanitarian aircraft operating in the region “to enhance extra precaution in light of the unclear circumstances surrounding the incident”.

“The aircraft had been and was supporting humanitarian operations during the Covid-19 pandemic,” the ministry statement said.
According to former Somalia defence minister Abdirashid Abdullahi Mohamed, a witness at the airfield reported that the plane had made an initial attempt to land.

The witness, he added, said the aircraft aborted the landing because animals were on the runway.

When it attempted to land the second time, he said, it appeared to have been shot on one wing.

Somali Federal Republic transport minister Mohamed Salad told journalists that he was sending a unit to investigate the incident.

He added that the team would arrive in Bardale on Tuesday, adding that the country welcomes international assistance in the investigations.

Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo called President Uhuru Kenyatta to express his regret and convey condolences to the bereaved families.

The foreign affairs ministry said Mr Farmaajo informed President Kenyatta that he had instructed the country’s civil aviation authorities to launch investigations into the circumstances surrounding the crash.

“President Farmaajo invited the Kenyan civil aviation authorities to team with their Somali counterparts with a view to completing the investigations expeditiously,” the statement added.

Mr Kenyatta sent messages of condolences to the families of the pilots.

Somalia was plunged into civil war following the overthrow of longtime president Mohammed Siad Barre in 1991.

The country has not had a stable government, with different militia fighting for supremacy.

Al-Shabaab, a group linked to al-Qaeda, controls a large part of the country.

The group has claimed responsibility for several attacks in Kenya and Somalia in recent years.

The 2015 Garissa University and 2013 Westgate raids in Nairobi were claimed by the group.


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