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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Belarus Blames Plane Crash in Somalia on Missile Strike

APSomalis standing around the plane's wreckage near Mogadishu on Sunday.
MOGADISHU, Somalia -- Belarus has said a missile caused a plane crash in Mogadishu that killed 11 of its citizens, while the Somali government said the incident looked more like an accident than an attack by ever-bolder insurgents.

"The plane was shot down," Belarussian Transport Ministry spokeswoman Ksenia Perestoronina said in Minsk on Saturday, adding that the large Ilyushin plane, in Somalia to assist struggling African peacekeepers, was hit at a height of 150 meters.

If confirmed, it would be the most bold strike yet by rebels fighting the Somali government, their Ethiopian military allies and the African Union force since the start of 2007.

Both a local Somali radio and an Islamist web site said a missile had hit the Russian-made Ilyushin -- used by a Belarussian firm -- just after takeoff from Mogadishu on Friday afternoon.

Witnesses who saw the plane burning in the sky and then crashing, however, could not confirm that it had been shot first.

And Somali Interior Minister Mohamed Mahamud Guled insisted that the incident had the hallmarks of a technical fault, though investigations were under way to confirm exactly what happened.

"The plane took off at around five o'clock and as soon as it reached 10,000 feet altitude, the pilot reported an engine problem in engine number two and said he would turn back to the airport," he told a news conference in Mogadishu.

Only one of the 11 on board -- seven crew members and four engineers -- initially survived the crash. He was found wandering among the corpses and wreckage, but later died in a hospital.