27 July 2014

Algeria: France Plans Repatriation of All Bodies From Air Algerie Flight

French authorities are to send all the bodies of those killed in the crash of Air Algerie flight AH5017 to France. The French presidency has declared three days of national mourning for those killed in the crash.

French President Francois Hollande said on Saturday that all bodies recovered from the Air Algerie disaster, which killed 118 people, would be taken to France.

"All bodies will be brought to France. I mean all bodies of all passengers of this flight," said Hollande.

None of those on board the plane survived the impact with France the country worst hit in terms of fatalities, having 57 citizens on board.

Hollande did not clarify whether the repatriation plan had been approved by families of victims of other nationalities. Passengers from Burkina Faso, Lebanon, Algeria, Canada, Germany and Luxembourg were also on board, along with an all-Spanish crew.

French, Dutch and Malian soldiers from the UN peacekeeping force MINUSMA - which was already stationed in the country in wake of an Islamist insurgency - have taken control of the crash site.

The president, who on Saturday met families of the victims, said France would fly flags at half mast for three days from Monday as a sign of mourning. He also said families would eventually be able to visit the crash site, which lies about 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of the northern Malian town of Goss.

"A memorial will be put up so that no one forgets that 118 people perished in this area," Hollande told reporters.

Mystery remains over cause

A second black box from the flight was recovered on Saturday, with the on-board data and voice recorders set to be analyzed as quickly as possible.

The Swiftair-operated flight crashed early on Thursday, less than an hour after taking off from the Burkinabe capital, Ouagadougou, en route to Algiers.

France has cited poor weather as the likeliest cause of the crash but, given the troubled nature of the region, officials have not ruled out the possibility of terrorism.

The restive nature of northern Mali, where Tuareg rebels have led a campaign of independence for decades, had raised suspicion the plane might have been shot down - as was the suspicion when Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was brought down over Ukraine.

However, initial evidence suggests that the plane only broke apart when it first hit the ground, making an attack seem less likely as an explanation.

 - AFP, AP, Reuters

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