Concerns over rocket propelled grenades (RPGs) and shoulder-launched missiles (manpads) have forced the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to prohibit US air carriers and commercial operators from operating in Somalia at altitudes below 20,000ft (6,000m).
The prohibition, announced today, comes after one non-fatal and one fatal crash in the country. On 9 March, an Ilyushin Il-76 supporting Ugandan peacekeeping forces in Somalia exploded and caught fire “just above the landing gear” while on final approach to Mogadishu International Airport, according to the FAA. “There is evidence to support the possibility that the aircraft may have been struck by a rocket propelled grenade (RPG) while 2.5-3km off the coast of Somalia at approximately 120m in altitude,” the agency writes. The aircraft, though heavily damaged was able to land at the airport.
A second Il-76 that had flown into Mogadishu with engineers and parts to fix the first aircraft was shot down as it departed the airport in 23 March, killing all on board. The FAA says that although the crash is still under investigation, “there is a possibility the Il-76 was downed by a manpads missile” or RPG. “These incidents occurred days after unknown individuals mortared the airport at Mogadishu, causing minimal damage,” the agency writes.