UAVs operating over Somalia have been involved in a number of crashes and incidents since last summer, including a near-collision with a Boeing 737 departing Mogadishu’s Aden Adde International Airport in January, according to the United Nations panel monitoring compliance with an arms embargo of that country. The pilot of the 737 altered course after receiving a warning from the aircraft’s traffic alert collision avoidance system.
In a report delivered to the UN Security Council in late June, the Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea said that unidentified UAVs now “routinely” operate in Somali airspace, potentially violating the 1992 arms embargo. The group noted that independent media reports have documented the deployment of U.S.-operated aircraft in the region, including their suspected use in targeted assassinations of leaders of the Al-Shabaab Islamist extremist group. The U.S. government has officially informed the monitoring group that it has provided a “small number” of UAVs to the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom), a regional peacekeeping effort. In February, however, Amisom expressed concern in a letter to its partner countries about unidentified UAV operations over Mogadishu.
The monitoring group cited five incidents in its report, the most serious of which was the near-collision at Mogadishu’s airport on January 9. According to the group, the 737 with 112 people on board was being operated on behalf of Amisom for troop rotations between Mogadishu and Entebbe, Uganda. In a letter that followed, “the Amisom force commander raised this and other incidents with his main partners, calling (for) an urgent meeting to prevent further incidents, in view of the threat UAVs potentially represent to Amisom air operations and aviation safety in general.”
The first incident was the reported crash of a surveillance UAV into a house in central Mogadishu in August 2011. Last November, a UAV “corresponding to the technical description of a Raven” flew over an Amisom fuel storage facility, posing “a serious security threat to Amisom because of the risk of a crash into its main fuel depot.” In February, “a U.S.-manufactured drone” crashed in the Badbaado refugee camp. The wreckage was recovered by Amisom and Somali transitional federal government security forces, and no casualties were reported.
On July 25, the UN Security Council extended the mandate of the monitoring group by another year to Aug. 25, 2013.
U.S. Africom has stepped up air surveillance operations across Africa, according to a mid-June report in The Washington Post. MQ-9 Reapers have flown from bases in Ethiopia and the Seychelles–where two crashed in the past six months, the report noted–as well as from Djibouti. The report also mentioned PC-12s equipped for ISR that Africom has contracted, such as those that AIN reported here last year. The PC-12s are based at Ouagadougou in Upper Volta and Entebbe in Uganda, according to The Washington Post.