Malian Su-25 destroyed in crash

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A Su-25 combat aircraft operated by Mali’s air force has crashed, killing the Russian pilot.

Mali’s Armed Forces said the aircraft (TZ-20C) crashed near Gao airport on 4 October after returning from a mission in the area, forcing a temporary closure of the airport.

Reuters reported that two army personnel (one pilot and one on the ground) were killed and 10 people (two civilians and eight military personnel) injured in the incident, with two in serious condition.

A military official told Agence France Presse that the pilot was Russian. Video provided to AFP by a witness showed an aircraft descending at high speed before crashing in a plume of smoke.

Mali’s armed forces said an investigation had been launched, but there was no indication that the crash was caused by hostile action.

The crashed aircraft is one of several that were recently delivered to Mali. On 9 August, Mali’s armed forces commissioned one Su-25 jet, four L-39 jet trainers, an Mi-24P attack helicopter, an Mi-8 transport helicopter and a single Airbus C295 tactical transport aircraft.

The C295 aircraft arrived on 31 May and is the second to be acquired, with the first delivered in December 2016. Two Mi-24Ps were delivered to Mali on 30 March this year, along with Protivnik-GE/59N6-TE mobile radars from Russia. Mali also recently acquired four Mi-35s from Russia.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s arms transfers database, Mali in 2020 ordered four Mi-8MT/Mi-17Sh helicopters from Russia for $61 million including training and weapons, with deliveries from 2021. The Su-25s and L-39s appear to be new acquisitions as well.

Mali has been battered by an extremist campaign that began in the north of the country in 2012, with attacks spreading into Niger and Burkina Faso as well. As a result, Mali has turned to Russia to supply equipment and paramilitary forces to shore up its military.