On Wednesday, Mali's ruling junta referred to the loss of a lieutenant-colonel killed, according to relatives, aboard the plane that crashed in Gao (north) on Saturday, claiming a high but unknown number of victims.
This is the first mention of an apparent link with this event from the Malian authorities, who have been completely silent since the events.
In the tribute paid to Lieutenant-Colonel Moussa Traoré, the Malian army refrained from specifying the circumstances of his disappearance, saying only that he died on Saturday at the age of 62 "in the course of commanded air service".
The officer was indeed on board the transport plane that crashed on Saturday, according to family members and a military official speaking on condition of anonymity given the blackout on the subject.
A video describing the disaster has been circulating widely on social networks since Wednesday. It shows an aircraft resembling a Soviet-designed Ilyushin 76 in the process of landing, failing to stop at the end of the runway and crashing into a cloud of flames and smoke.
The origin of the video could not be formally identified. Various officials said on Sunday that the aircraft belonged to the Malian army and was carrying members of Wagner, and that the human toll was high.
The junta that seized power by force in 2020 is widely believed to have enlisted the services of this Russian paramilitary company in the fight against terrorism.
The junta that took power by force in 2020 is widely believed to have enlisted the services of this criticized Russian paramilitary company, at the same time as breaking with its French military ally. It has since also pushed out the UN mission, which is due to leave the country by the end of 2023.
The junta denies cooperation with Wagner and speaks of the presence of Russian army instructors helping it to combat the jihadists. The actions of these allies are shrouded in the utmost discretion. They are regularly accused of abuses.
To date, the Malian authorities have provided no details of the events in Gao. Lieutenant-Colonel Traoré's funeral took place on Tuesday in the presence of the Minister of Defense, Colonel Sadio Camara, reputedly close to Russia, and the Chiefs of Staff, according to the army.
Lieutenant-Colonel Traoré had taken part in several internal and external missions, and received various distinctions, it said. He had also trained as a senior mechanical technician in Russia, it said. Several Malian officers have received training in Russia.