Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported on Wednesday that six Russian citizens killed in the terrorist attacks in Mali last Friday were in the country on assignment for the Norwegian military. They had transported building material and equipment from Norway that was to be used by Norwegian UN forces in Mali.
NRK reported that the military equipment was flown from Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen to Mali on a Russian aircraft known as an Antonov AN-124, the world’s largest operative transport jet. The flight was operated by Volga Dnepr Airlines, which is often used in connection with international aid operations. Six of 19 people killed in the attacks on the Radisson Blu hotel in Mali’s capital were crew members on the Volga Dnepr Airlines flight.
The cargo of building material on board the aircraft had been ordered by the Norwegian defense department for use by Norwegian UN forces in Mali, confirmed Lt Col Ivar Moen, spokesman for Norway’s military, to NRK.
The flight and its Russian crew had an assignment, Moen said, “to carry material down to Mali in connection with the UN assignment that Norway is part of in the country. Norway is participating in a multinational cooperation in which several countries are working together to to share air transport capacity.” Moen said the cooperation with the Russian airline “secures that we’re able to transport the material we need in the most effective manner possible.”
NRK reported there were 12 crew members on board the Antonov aircraft and six survived the terrorist attack. According to Volga Dnepr Airlines, they have since been flown back to Russia.
Moen said Norwegian officials extend sympathy for the deaths of the six Russian crew members. “We condemn the (terror attacks) strongly, this is very sad,” Moen told NRK. He said the transport job had been concluded, however, after the cargo had been delivered at the airport in Bamoko, Mali. The Volga airline crew, after unloading the cargo, was apparently staying at the Radisson Blu Hotel when it was attacked. Moen noted that the Norwegian defense department had no responsibility for the crew and the transport job had been completed.
“We are now in a process about how we can pay our respects to the survivors,” Moen told NRK, “but we beyond that, we have no responsibility.”