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Air Algerie flight 'probably crashed' in Mali (w/video)

  • This photo taken on Friday, May 16, 2014 shows an MD-83 aircraft in the livery of Swiftair landing at Zaventem Airport Brussels. An Air Algerie flight carrying over 100 people from Burkina Faso to Algeria's capital disappeared from radar early Thursday over northern Mali after heavy rains were reported, according to the plane's owner and government officials in France and Burkina Faso. Air navigation services lost track of the MD-83 about 50 minutes after takeoff from Ougadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, at 0155 GMT (9:55 p.m. EDT Wednesday), the official Algerian news agency APS said. Air Algerie Flight 5017 was being operated by Spanish airline Swiftair, the company said in a statement. The Spanish pilots' union said the plane belonged to Swiftair and it was operated by a Spanish crew. (AP Photo/Kevin Cleynhens)

ALGIERS, Algeria — An Air Algerie flight carrying 116 people from Burkina Faso to Algeria's capital disappeared from radar early Thursday over northern Mali during a rainstorm, officials said. France deployed fighter jets to search for wreckage and the country's president said the plane most likely crashed.

The MD-83 vanished less than an hour after takeoff from Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. Air Algerie Flight 5017 was operated by Spanish airline Swiftair, which owns the plane.

"Everything allows us to believe this plane crashed in Mali," French President Francois Hollande said in a statement after an emergency meeting in Paris with senior officials, adding the crew changed its flight path because of "particularly difficult weather conditions."

Earlier, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters in Paris the plane "probably crashed" and no "trace of the aircraft has been found."

Two French fighter jets are among aircraft scouring the rugged north of Mali for the plane, which was traveling from Burkina Faso's capital, Ouagadougou, to Algiers, the Algerian capital.


Hollande said "all military means we have in Mali" were being activated for the search, through the night if needed. France has considerable military means in Mali, because of its intervention in the country in January 2013 to rout Islamic extremists who were controlling the north.

The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali, known as MINUSMA, was also helping in the search, U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said.

More than 50 French were onboard the plane along with 27 Burkina Faso nationals and passengers from a dozen other countries. The flight crew was Spanish.

Before vanishing, the pilots sent a final message to ask Niger air control to change its route because of heavy rain in the area, Burkina Faso Transport Minister Jean Bertin Ouedraogo said.

A resident who lives in a village in Mali about 80 kilometers (60 miles) southeast of the town of Gossi said he saw a plane coming down early Thursday, according to Gen. Gilbert Diendere, heading the crisis committee set up in Burkina Faso.


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