Drone Crash in Congo Kills 1, Injures 2

The Associated Press
Tuesday, October 3, 2006; 2:54 PM

KINSHASA, Congo -- An unmanned reconnaissance plane used by European forces helping provide security in Congo crashed in the capital Tuesday, killing one person on the ground and injuring two others, an official said.

It was the second drone crash in Kinshasa in the past four months.

"We still don't know why it fell," said Col. Thierry Fusalba, spokesman for the European Union force helping to maintain peace in Congo as the war-torn Central African country establishes its first democratic government in decades.

He added that the Belgian craft crashed as it was taking off, meaning it could have been a technical problem. The plane fell onto a Kinshasa boulevard, killing one person and injuring two others, he said.

In July, a Belgian drone crashed when it was on a test flight over Kinshasa, injuring five people in what officials originally said might have been a technical problem. A later investigation found the plane was shot down, Fusalba said.

Ahead of Congo's elections in late July, militia groups repeatedly shot at aircraft that were patrolling the skies.

Congo's restive capital is preparing for a second round presidential vote next month that many worry could plunge the city back into violence. After first round results were released, supporters of the two main candidates fought in the streets for days. The parties have since pledged to disarm Kinshasa for the balloting.

Congo recently installed a democratically elected parliament after more than 40 years of dictatorship, corruption and ethnic violence. The country has been operating under a transitional government since the end of a 1996-2002 war.

The European Union sent about 1,500 forces to Congo to help secure peace for the electoral process, reinforcing a 17,500-strong U.N. force.

© 2006 The Associated Press