A small cargo plane chartered by the French army has crashed into the waters off Ivory Coast, killing at least four Moldovan citizens, according to firefighters.
Another six people were injured on Saturday in the crash of the Antonov aircraft, which had taken off from Burkina Faso's capital, Ouagadougou. It crash-landed in the sea near the airport in Ivory Coast's main city, Abidjan, breaking in half.
"There were 10 people on board, Moldovans and French people. The four victims who died are Moldovan nationals," firefighter Colonel Issa Sakho told local television.
Four French citizens survived the crash but were injured, Ivory Coast's Security Minister Sidiki Diakite told reporters at the scene. Several Ivorian security sources said French soldiers were among the wounded.
Local forces were hoping to secure the wreck before it drifted away "so investigators can do their job", said Sakho.
|Rescuers pull the wreckage of the cargo plane out of the sea [Ange Aboa/Reuters]|
A French military source told AFP news agency that the Antonov was chartered as part of Operation Barkhane, under which France maintains a 4,000-man mission in the region.
The operation aims to shore up fragile Sahel countries against fighters who have carried out a wave of bombings, shootings and kidnappings.
The French military base in Abidjan provides logistical support for the operation which is headquartered in Chad's capital, Ndjamena. French special forces are stationed in Ouagadougou.
Every year, around 100 sorties are flown out of Abidjan airport as part of Barkhane, often by former Soviet army pilots in Ukrainian-made Antonovs.
The planes frequently carry French military personnel and sub-contractors accompanying their cargo.
There was a heavy storm over Abidjan early on Saturday, but it was unclear whether the heavy weather was the cause of the accident.
France keeps around 950 military personnel in Ivory Coast as part of the FFCI force based in the biggest French army base on Africa's Atlantic coast. Other bases are in Libreville, Gabon and Dakar, Senegal.
Source: News agencies