110 passengers are feared dead as jet crashes in desert
An Air Algerie flight with 110 passengers on board, nearly half of them French citizens, crashed yesterday after it disappeared over northern Mali en route from Burkina Faso to Algiers, an Algerian official said.
Mali's president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita said yesterday that the wreckage of the flight had been spotted in his country's desert.
"I have just been informed that the wreckage has been found between Aguelhoc and Kidal," Keita said during a meeting of political, religious and civil society leaders in Bamako. He did not give any more details.
There were few clear indications of what might have happened to flight AH5017, or how many people were dead.
Burkina Faso's transport minister said the crew asked to adjust their route at 9.38pm EDT because of a storm in the area.
"I can confirm that yes, this plane has crashed," the Algerian official said, declining to be identified or to give any details about what had happened to the aircraft on its way north.
French foreign minister Laurent Fabius said the flight was still missing, but had probably crashed.
"Despite intensive search efforts no trace of the aircraft has yet been found," Fabius told journalists in Paris. "The plane has probably crashed."
French president Francois Hollande cancelled a planned visit to overseas territories and said all military means on the ground would be used to help locate the aircraft.
Two French Mirage warplanes have been scouring the vast desert area around the northern Malian city of Gao for the aircraft, which had 51 French nationals on board.
"The search will take as long as needed," Hollande told reporters.
"Everything must be done to find this plane.
"We cannot identify the causes of what happened."
An aid worker based in Mali who asked not to be named said his organisation had received several calls from residents based in the villages of Tessalit and Tinzawaten in the northeastern region of Kidal after hearing a loud explosion.