A plane carrying U.S. Rep. Donald Payne was fired on Monday at the airport in Mogadishu, Somalia, but the plane and its passengers appear to have departed safely, a spokeswoman for the congressman said.
“We understand that his plane was fired on and, as he left, we understand that a mortar landed on his plane, but that they have left safely and that no one was hurt,” said Kerry McKenney, spokeswoman in the lawmaker’s Washington office, citing police officers at the airport. “We are hoping that he’s safe and on his way back home.” The New Jersey Democrat and chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health was visiting Somalia because “he felt it was important to travel there to see first hand what was happening,” McKenney said. Payne’s original plans had been to fly from Somalia to Nairobi, Kenya, and then return to the United States, she said. “I don’t know whether they have changed, but I hope to be hearing from the congressman shortly,” she told CNN in a telephone interview. Earlier Monday, a journalist in Mogadishu said mortar rounds and gunfire were heard near the airport shortly after Payne ended a news conference with Somalia’s prime minister, Omar Abdirashid. Payne left the United States April 9 for Djibouti. He was hoping to spend four to five hours in Mogadishu at the conclusion of the trip to meet with both Somalia’s prime minister and members of the African Union, McKenney said. The African Union is an organization promoting greater integration and cooperation among various African countries.