French Minister: Missing Plane `Probably Crashed’
By Scott Neuman and Eyder Peralta
Air Algerie says an MD-83 en route from the capital of Burkina Faso to Algiers with 116 passengers and crew aboard has likely crashed in Mali.
Mali's president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, was quoted by Reuters as saying wreckage from the airplane had been spotted in the country's north between Aguelhoc and Kidal, but he gave no other details. That is a considerable distance from where the airline itself said the crash might have occurred: in Tilemsi, Mali, about 70 miles from Gao.
Although the crash has yet to be officially confirmed, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said there was "no trace" of the aircraft and that it had "probably crashed," according to The Associated Press.
Fabius said that French warplanes had been dispatched to search for wreckage.
Al-Jazeera says the airplane is operated by Air Algerie and owned by the Spanish private company Swiftair.
Earlier, the authorities said they'd lost contact with the airplane traveling from Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso to Algiers, Reuters reports, citing the Algerian state news agency.
"APS said authorities lost contact with flight AH 5017 an hour after it took off from Burkina Faso.
"Spanish private airline company Swiftair confirmed it had no contact with its MD-83 aircraft operated by Air Algerie, which it said was carrying 110 passengers and six crew. An Algerian official had earlier said it was an Airbus A320."
In a statement, Swiftair said the flight took off at 9:17 p.m. ET on Wednesday, and was supposed to arrive shortly after 1 a.m. ET. on Thursday.
"There is at this moment no contact with the aircraft," Swiftair said.
Of course, this incident comes about a week after Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine and a day after a Transasia Airways plane crash-landed in Taiwan, killing dozens of passengers.
This is a developing news story. We'll update when we know more.
Update at 10:10 a.m. ET. Passenger List:
Burkina Faso Transport Minister Jean Bertin Ouedraogo says the list of passengers aboard the aircraft includes 51 French citizens, 27 from Burkina Faso, eight Lebanese, six Algerians, five Canadians, four Germans, two from Luxemburg and one passenger each from Switzerland, Belgium, Egypt, Ukraine, Nigeria, Cameroon and Mali. The six crew are listed as Spanish, he says.
Update at 8:10 a.m. ET. Poor Visibility:
Quoting an unnamed Air Algerie source, the French wire service Agence France-Presse reports that the plane went missing after authorities asked it to change course.
"The plane was not far from the Algerian frontier when the crew was asked to make a detour because of poor visibility and to prevent the risk of collision with another aircraft on the Algiers-Bamako route," the Air Algerie source tells AFP. "Contact was lost after the change of course."
The AP reports that the French transport minister told reporters the flight disappeared over Mali.
As we've reported, Mali, with help from the French, has been fighting against Islamist rebels.