Voice of America (Washington, DC)

25 July 2014

Mali: French Military to Secure Mali Plane Crash Site

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.

France has sent a military unit to secure the wreckage of an Air Algerie plane that crashed in Mali on its way from Burkina Faso to Algeria with 116 people on board.

President Francois Hollande's office said in a statement Friday the plane, which was carrying 51 French nationals, was clearly identified even though it has "disintegrated".

There have been no reports of survivors.

Burkina Faso army General Gilbert Diendere confirmed the plane was located about 30 kilometers north of the Burkina Faso border, in the Malian region of Gossi.

"At this location the (rescue) mission found debris from the plane that unfortunately included the remains of human bodies," Diendere said.

"We have not been able to evaluate properly because night began to fall and rescuers confirmed to us that they have seen the totally burnt and scattered wreckage of the plane. Unfortunately, our team saw nobody (alive). The team saw no survivors there," he said.

Authorities say the flight encountered strong storms after taking off from Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso.

There were few clear indications of what might have happened to the airliner, but Burkina Faso's transport minister said the crew asked to adjust their route at 0138 GMT because of a storm in the area.

It is not yet known if weather played a role in the plane's disappearance. The flight from Burkina Faso to Algiers should have taken four hours.

Earlier, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters the aircraft "probably crashed," as French fighter jets based in West Africa were taking part in the search.

French President Francois Hollande canceled a planned visit to overseas territories and said all military means on the ground would be used to locate the aircraft.

Earlier Thursday, Kara Terki, a spokesman for Air Algeria, confirmed there had been no sign of the plane since around 0330 GMT, about one hour before it was scheduled to land in Algiers Thursday morning.

The MD-83 aircraft, constructed in 1996, was chartered by Air Algerie from Spanish airline Swiftair. SwiftAir said in a statement it was continuing to work with Air Algerie and local authorities to locate the missing plane.

Last seen over northern Mali

Security officials in Mali told VOA that the plane was last seen on radar over northern Mali, between Gao and Tissalit, near the border with Burkina Faso.

Gao was one of the towns in northern Mali seized by al-Qaida-linked Islamist militants in 2012. The Malian government regained control after a French-led military intervention last year, but militants continue to attack French and government troops.

Algerian officials have set up a crisis team at the Algiers airport, while Swiftair said emergency equipment and personnel have been deployed to find out what happened to the plane.

According to Burkina Faso's Ministry of Transportation, there were 110 passengers and six crew members on board, including 50 French citizens and 24 Burkinabe.

They said most of the passengers were in transit to destinations in Europe.

The plane was chartered by Air Algerie from Spanish airline Swiftair.

VOA's Jennifer Lazuta contributed to this report. Some information for this report provided by Reuters.

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