A Mali Air Force Sukhoi Su-25 attack aircraft crashed near Almoustarat, north of Gao, Mali, on September 9, 2023. The two pilots managed to eject and were recovered by the Armed Forces of Mali.
The Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA), composed of Tuareg armed groups active in northern Mali, claimed to have shot down the Su-25, which it defined as “a FAMA/Wagner terrorist aircraft following bombings on [CMA] positions.”
However, the Malian Chief of the General Staff Alou Boi Diarra said instead that the crash was due to a technical error that forced the crew to eject. He also mentioned difficult weather.
The crashed aircraft is thought to be registered TZ-25C. It was transferred to Mali in January 2023 along with two Mil Mi-8 helicopters, and five L-39 Albatross jet trainers.
#Mali🇲🇱 – Images from the crash site suggest that the Malian Air Force lost its Su-25 reg. TZ-25C (delivered January 2023). CMA reported that their forces had fired on the jet, leading to the crash. There were also very bad weather conditions, another possible cause of the crash. https://t.co/kAGTqhNUze pic.twitter.com/BDLdUJgiOO— Fabian (@fabsenbln) September 10, 2023
It is the second Malian Su-25 to crash in less than a year. On October 4, 2022, the Sukhoi registered TZ-20C crashed at Gao International Airport (GAQ), killing the pilot and an airport worker on the ground.
Russia’s elusive presence in Mali’s skies
Numerous reports allege the infamous Russian private military company Wagner Group has been involved in arming, training, and conducting combat operations in Mali. Meanwhile, Russian officials persist in denying any military presence in Mali, asserting that Wagner is unrelated to the Russian state.
This did not prevent the Malian government from directly thanking Russian authorities for transferring several aircraft in August 2022, omitting any mention of Wagner. In photos from the transfer ceremony, pilots dressed in Russian Aerospace Forces’ uniforms were present. It remains uncertain whether Wagner or Russian pilots operate or train the Malian Air Force.