Somali Officials: UN helicopter landed in Al-Shabaab territory

Officials say they believed al-Shabab militants captured most of the nine occupants. [Google Maps]

The United Nations said Wednesday that efforts were underway to respond to the U.N.-contracted helicopter that al-Shabaab militants captured earlier in the day in Galmudug state.

"I can confirm there was an incident involving a U.N.-contracted helicopter that took place today in Galmudug in Somalia,” Stephane Dujarric, spokesperson for U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, told reporters at a daily briefing in New York.

“Response efforts are underway, but for the sake of the safety of all those on board, we are not going to say anything more at this point,” Dujarric said.

The helicopter was traveling from Beledwenye in Hirshabelle state to Wisil in Galmudug for what officials said was a medical evacuation. It landed in al-Shabab territory in central Somalia near Xiindheere in Galmudug state, Somali officials told VOA Somali.

Officials say they believed al-Shabab militants captured most of the nine occupants. Their nationalities were not known.

“It was a helicopter, it was carrying workers, and it was one of those helicopters that help Somalia evacuate the wounded,” Farah Diriye Warsame, district commissioner of Adado town in Galmudug, told VOA Somali.

“I heard the helicopter had problems, and the pilot decided to land it rather than risk it blowing up in midair, and has landed it safely,” Warsame said.

A Somali government official, who did not want to be identified because he was not allowed to speak with reporters, said the Bell 412 helicopter had technical problems.

It was not clear whether a mechanical issue or possible gunfire from al-Shabab militants who control the area caused the technical problems.