A helicopter belonging to the United Nations mission in Somalia has been captured by al-Shabab after it landed in territory held by the armed group.
Several passengers were reportedly seized in Galmudug State on Wednesday by the al-Qaeda-linked group, which has wreaked violence in the Horn of Africa for years.
An internal UN memo seen by reporters stated that the helicopter landed close to Gadoon village in the Galgaduud region due to a technical glitch. A UN official in Mogadishu also confirmed the incident to the local media.
According to the memo, there were nine passengers on the plane, including military personnel and a third-party contractor. At least six of the passengers were reportedly seized by al-Shabab.
One passenger remained at large.
Al-Shabab has not claimed responsibility for the attack.
National broadcaster SNTV reported that the helicopter was being used for emergency assistance to support the Federal Government.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, an aviation official said the helicopter was headed to the eastern town of Wisil for a medical evacuation.
All UN flights have been temporarily suspended in the vicinity until further notice.
The aircraft encountered a defect shortly after taking off from Beledweyne city in central Somalia, Major Hassan Ali told the Reuters news agency.
When asked about the reported incident, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric confirmed the “incident involved a UN-contracted helicopter that took place today in Galmudug, Somalia.”.
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.
There was no immediate comment from the Somali government about Wednesday’s incident.