Plane that Russia delivered to Mali crashes; Russian pilot killed

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A Russian pilot died Tuesday when a plane that Russia had recently delivered to Mali’s armed forces crashed near the northern city of Gao, a military official told AFP.

The source, speaking on condition of anonymity, gave no details about the crash other than to say that the aircraft had been “returning from a patrol.”

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The plane was an Albatros, a Soviet-era Czechoslovakian-built model initially designed for training purposes but later adapted for combat use in some export markets.

The official said the Albatros was among the Malian army’s “new acquisitions.”

Mali’s ruling junta, which seized power in August 2020, has turned away from the country’s traditional ally France and towards Russia.

The Kremlin’s support has included large numbers of ground operatives, who Mali describes as military trainers but who western countries say are paramilitaries with the private organization Wagner, as well as combat aircraft and helicopters.

Mali has faced an extremist insurgency since 2012. Violence that began in the north of the country has spread to central and southern Mali, as well as to neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger.

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