24 July 2014

Algeria: Air Algerie Loses Contact With Plane Over Africa

Photo: VOA
An Air Algerie flight carrying 116 people has vanished while en route from Burkina Faso to Algeria. A French government official and the plane's Spanish owner says contact was lost with the aircraft over northern Mali.

Air Algerie has lost contact with one of its flights from Burkina Faso to Algiers. France's junior transport minister has said there were likely many French passengers on the plane.

Air navigation services lost track of the plane 50 minutes after takeoff early on Thursday, Algeria's APS state news agency said. The aircraft, which was carrying 116 passengers and crew, was last sighted at 0155 UTC.

"In keeping with procedures, Air Algerie has launched its emergency plan," the airline said in a statement carried by the agency.

AH5017 was to fly from Burkina Faso's capital Ougadougou to Algiers, but its flight path was not immediately clear.

An Algerian aviation official said the plane disappeared while flying over Gao, Mali.

Air Algerie was operating the plane on behalf of private Spanish airline Swiftair, which said the flight did not reach its expected destination. Swiftair said the aircraft was an MD-83. An Algerian had earlier said it was an Airbus A320.

Many French passengers 'likely' on board

France's junior transport minister told reporters that the likelihood of French passengers on the flight was high.

"There were likely French people on board, and if there were French people on board there were certainly many of them," Frederic Cuvillier said, adding that top civil aviation officials are holding an emergency meeting and a crisis cell has been set up.

In February of this year, an Algerian C-130 military aircraft crashed into the mountains in the northeast, killing more than 70.

The country's worst-ever air disaster occurred in 2003, when an Air Algerie passenger plane crashed shortly after takeoff near the southern city of Tamanrasset after one of its engines cut out. All but one of the 103 people on board were killed.

dr/msh (AP, dpa, Reuters, AFP)

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