The Goma Express, an airline company whose aircraft was attacked, said a Russian pilot escaped and flew the plane back to Goma, the provincial capital 150km away, with a wounded Congolese national on board.

Pedro Kadogi, the 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 the airstrip to export tonnes of cassiterite from the Bisie mine in the deep jungle.