Congolese rebels took an Indian pilot hostage when they attacked an aircraft on a remote airstrip in a tin mining zone in the country’s North Kivu province, said army and mining officials.
Congolese army General Baigwa Dieudonne Amuli said Rwandan Hutu FDLR rebels were to blame for the attack in Walikale. Goma Express, whose aircraft was attacked, said a Russian colleague escaped and flew the plane back to Goma, the provincial capital 150 km away, with a wounded Congolese national on board.
The airstrip is often used to export cassiterite, a tin ore partly blamed for funding armed groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s simmering eastern conflict.
“The FDLR attacked a plane with the assistance of Mai Mai Sheka (militia). We are pursuing the rebels in the bush,” Amuli told Reuters.
“They took money and the co-pilot of the plane,” he added, saying US $60,000 in cash had been stolen.
Pedro Kadogi, director of Goma Express, confirmed the incident and said the plane had been looted before it returned to Goma. He said food supplies, rather than money, had been on the plane.
“Everybody fled the scene into the bush and the co-pilot has been taken hostage,” he said. “After two hours the Russian pilot panicked and refused to wait and flew the plane back to Goma.”
About 15 planes a day land at Walikale’s airstrip to export tons of cassiterite from the Bisie mine in the deep jungle.