The Democratic Republic of Congo has one of the world's worst aviation safety records, so reports that an aircraft had tumbled into a remote forest last week caused few international ripples. Since then, however, a deepening mystery over the nature of the cargo and the identity of those on board has left the Congolese government facing awkward questions. The fate of the stricken plane, a mysterious Antonov-72 so far only identified by its former registration number, EK-72903, may also provide a glimpse into the murkier side of Russia's attempts to reassert its influence in Africa. The details remain scant. Last Thursday, the plane crashed 59 minutes after taking off from the eastern city of Goma bound for the capital Kinshasa. None of the eight people on board survived, officials said. The passengers were identified as the personal chauffeur of Felix Tshisekedi, Congo's president, and three of his bodyguards. An armoured vehicle used by the president was also on board. A more troubling disclosure followed when two of the four-strong crew were identified. Vitaly Shumkov and Vladimir Sadovnichy, the plane's pilots, were not only Russian nationals, they both appeared to have a background in gun running. The plane, too, has a… Read full this story
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