A video has emerged showing a massive Ilyushin Il-76 transport plane exploding in a field after overshooting its landing in Gao, Mali, on September 23rd. The incident has stirred speculation because of its potential ties with the Wagner Group, a private Russian mercenary force whose senior leadership died in a plane crash last month, likely orchestrated by the Kremlin. To me, this looks like either a terrible pilot error or a serious mechanical failure.
The crash video
Captured on film, the plane attempted to land but failed to stop in time, eventually going off the runway at high speed and exploding in a field. Despite earlier suggestions, the footage shows that the aircraft wasn’t shot down, but instead appears to have landed too far down its 2,500-meter runway.
The plane’s Russian pilot died in the incident and up to 140 passengers might have been on board, though the exact casualty number remains uncertain.
The Wagner connection
The crash’s timing, coming just weeks after Wagner’s leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, died in a plane crash near Moscow, has raised eyebrows.
Though some reports claimed Wagner’s ownership of the aircraft, local sources say that it was in the possession of the Malian military, transporting military cargo.
The crashed Il-76 is reportedly associated with Ruby Star Airways, a Belarusian company. Belarus and Russia share a close alliance, and following a failed coup in Russia spearheaded by Prigozhin, a significant number of Wagner troops were dispatched to Belarus.
This is pretty weird
While this incident appears accidental, and it’s not even clear whether the plane was associated with the Wagner Group, this crash looks pretty odd. The plane doesn’t just overshoot its landing, it doesn’t even come close. It land more than halfway down the runway, and it seems like even a rookie pilot should’ve known to go back around and try again.
This new video of the crash of an Ilyushin Il-76 transport plane in Mali dispels speculation that the plane was shot down and points instead to a seemingly glaring pilot error. The timing of the crash, so soon after the demise of Wagner’s senior leadership in a fiery plane crash as well as the plane’s potential connections with the Wagner Group is strange, but drawing serious conclusions is challenging without a more comprehensive investigation.