Magharebia (Washington DC)

29 July 2014

Algeria Rules Out Terrorism in Mali Plane Crash

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.

Algiers — Algeria ruled out terrorism as the cause of the plane crash that killed 118 people last Thursday in northern Mali.

Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal on Saturday (July 26th) said that "targeting the plane with a missile at a height of 10,000 metres is difficult and requires sophisticated equipment".

The Air Algerie plane leased from Spanish company Swiftair disappeared July 24th in bad weather less than an hour after leaving Ougadougou for a 4-hour flight to Algiers.

There had been concerns that the plane might have been brought down by terrorists, especially as the disaster occurred soon after violence erupted at the Tripoli airport.

The day before the plane crash, El Khabar reported that Algeria had closed air corridors for civilian planes to and from Libya.

The disappearance of at least 11 civilian planes at the Tripoli airport reportedly prompted the decision.

Algerian authorities were said to have been concerned that following the clashes at the airport between rival Libyan militias, the missing planes could end up in the hands of al-Qaeda-linked Islamist groups for use in terror attacks.

Now that the wreckage has been found, a formal investigation will reveal the cause of the accident. Algerian Transport Minister Amar Ghoul said.

"No judgment can be made about the cause of the plane crash," he said.

He added, however, that "initial analyses by technicians and experts" supported the "bad weather theory".

Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and France joined Algeria in the search for the plane. Rescue teams located one of the two black boxes Friday morning. The United Nations mission in Mali (MINUSMA) found the other on Saturday.

An armed group in Mali was the first to report the location of the ill-fated craft, Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra said.

Algeria seized the chance of the presence of some Touareg groups and Malian officials for the Algiers peace talks to ask for help in searching for the plane, the minister told reporters.

President Bouteflika on Friday declared three days of mourning and was following the case closely, Lamamra said.

He noted that a high-ranking Algeria delegation went to Mali to follow up on the case.

Meanwhile, the Algerian judiciary on Saturday said that in co-operation with other countries, it would conduct an investigation into the cause of the crash.

Air Algerie reported the plan carried 50 French, 24 Burkinabe, eight Lebanese, six Algerian, six Spanish, five Canadian, four German and two Luxembourg nationals.

"The plane just broke into piece as it crashed," French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said in a radio interview on Saturday.

"We believe the plane crashed because of bad weather conditions, although no theory can be ruled out for the time being," he added.

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