Authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo say 12 people have died after a military cargo aircraft crashed shortly after taking off from the capital Kinshasa.
Lambert Mende, a government spokesperson, confirmed the reports of the crash on Saturday of the Antonov cargo plane after takeoff from Kinshasa’s Ndjili International Airport, based on reports from airport officials.
“I confirm that a military aircraft crashed this morning,” Crispin Atama Tabe, Congo’s defence minister, said. “All 12 members of the crew died.”
Local news media reported initially that at least 10 people were on the plane bound for Bukavu in eastern Congo when it crashed in Nasilah, about 100 kilometres from the centre of Kinshasa.
An agent at the Congo’s aviation agency confirmed that the plane was an Antonov 12 destined for Bukavu.
“The military cargo plane crashed around 7:30am (06:30 GMT), a few minutes after taking off from the airport,” Georges Tabora, director of Ndjili International Airport, said in a statement.
The aircraft experienced a technical problem shortly after takeoff and lost radio contact with the control tower, Tabora said, adding that all crew members aboard died in the incident.
There were no passengers travelling at the time of the crash, he said.
According to a Congo army officer who witnessed the incident, the plane caught fire shortly after taking off from the airport and crashed in a nearby reserve controlled by the military’s elite Republican Guard units.
The officer told Reuters news agency there were both Congolese and foreigners among the dead.
Soldiers prevented journalists from approaching the crash site, but billowing smoke could be seen from several miles away, a Reuters witness said.
Air accidents are relatively frequent in the Congo due to lax safety standards. All Congo commercial carriers are banned from operating in the European Union.