Air Algerie Flight 5017 Crashed, Carrying 50 French Passengers

An Air Algerie flight from Burkina Faso to Algiers is reported to have crashed over northern Mali. The plane was carrying 110 passengers and 6 crew, of which 50 were French citizens.

Earlier today Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, president of Mali, announced that the plane’s wreckage was found in the town of Tilemsi, 70 kilometers from Gao in northern Mali. That was contested by the French Ministry of Defense, which said its fighter jets located the plane further away to the south west.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said French forces were prepared to use every military measure to locate the plane. Two French Mirage warplanes were launched to scour the desert over Mali.

In a statement on their website, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, “we are totally mobilized, both in Paris, and at crisis centers in Algiers and Ouagadougou, where our embassies are in constant contact with local authorities and the airline.”

Contradicting reports surround the passenger list. An Air Algerie representative at a conference has said that besides the 50 French nationals, there were at least 24 Burkina Faso nationals, 8 Lebanese, 4 Algerians, 2 Luxembourg nationals, one Belgian, one Swiss, one Nigerian, one Ukrainian, and one Cameroonian on the plane.

Burkina Faso Transport Minister Jean Bertin Ouedraogo on the other hand, said the plane also had one Malian, 5 Canadians, one Egyptian and 4 Germans.

The plane was an MD-38 model that was operated and belonged to the Spanish airline Swiftair, which has confirmed that the crew was made up of 6 Spanish nationals.

It is unclear why it took several hours for the news of the missing plane to be reported. Air navigation services lost touch with the plane 50 minutes after it left Ouagadougou, when it was flying over Gao Mali, reported APS, an Algerian news agency. The flight left at 01:17 local time, and was scheduled to arrive in Algiers at 05:10 but never made it to its destination.

The plane was asked to make a route change at 01:38 because of a powerful sandstorm over Mali. The pilot last contacted a Niger control tower to request the flight change.

The area in northern Mali, where the plane most likely fell, was under the control of Tuareg separatists and al-Qaeda Islamic extremists during the 2012 military coup. Although a French-led intervention put an end to the coup, the Tuareg separatists have been creating instability in Northern Mali against the Bamako government since.

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