Monday, April 13, 2009

Close Call: Rep. Donald Payne's Plane Fired Upon In Somalia

Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ) was in Somalia on a fact-finding mission and was on his way back to the United States, when his plane came under mortar fire. The plane didn't take any damage and he was unhurt, but it underlines the lawlessness and danger in Somalia.
None of the six fired mortar shells landed in the airport and the plane carrying New Jersey Democrat Donald Payne took off safely, said Col. Mohamed Idi, a police officer at the airport. He said no one was hurt in the airport.

Idi told The Associated Press some of the shells landed in a nearby residential area. It is not clear if anyone was injured there.

Payne, chairman of the House of Representatives' Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Africa, met with Somalia's president and prime minister during his one-day visit to Mogadishu to discuss piracy, security and cooperation between Somalia and the United States.

Payne's brother William, in Newark, N.J., said he had heard about the mortar attack from his brother's congressional office in Washington and from the New Jersey Department of Homeland Security.

He said Congressman Payne left the U.S. on Friday for Somalia, and that he was talking with leaders in Mogadishu about ways the U.S. can help stabilize Somalia. The war-ravaged country has not had an effective government for 18 years and is split among competing militias.

The congressman would have been looking for ways to work with Somali leaders to help the U.S. ship and crew that were attacked by pirates off the coast of Somalia, William Payne said.

"The whole family is real worried about him,'' Payne said. "He left here while the pirate situation was going on and would have been involved in it.''

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