July 25, 2014 07:58
Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita says searchers have spotted the wreckage of an Air Algerie plane that went missing on a flight from Burkina Faso to Algeria.
Keita says the plane's wreckage has been spotted in northeastern Mali, between the desert regions of Aguelhoc and Kidal. He made the announcement during a meeting in the capital, Bamako.
There was no immediate word on possible survivors. Authorities said 116 people were onboard flight AH5017.
There were few clear indications of what might have happened to the airliner, but Burkina Faso's transport minister said the crew asked to adjust their route at 0138 GMT because of a storm in the area. It is not yet known if weather played a role in the plane's disappearance. The flight from Burkina Faso to Algiers should have taken four hours.
Earlier, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters the aircraft "probably crashed," as French fighter jets based in West Africa were taking part in the search.
French President François Hollande canceled a planned visit to overseas territories and said all military means on the ground would be used to locate the aircraft.
Earlier Thursday, Kara Terki, a spokesman for Air Algeria, confirmed there had been no sign of the plane since around 0330 GMT, about one hour before it was scheduled to land in Algiers Thursday morning.
The MD-83 aircraft, constructed in 1996, was chartered by Air Algerie from Spanish airline Swiftair. SwiftAir said in a statement it was continuing to work with Air Algerie and local authorities to locate the missing plane.
Security officials in Mali told VOA that the plane was last seen on radar over northern Mali, between Gao and Tissalit, near the border with Burkina Faso.
Gao was one of the towns in northern Mali seized by al-Qaeda-linked Islamist militants in 2012. The Malian government regained control after a French-led military intervention last year, but militants continue to attack French and government troops.
Algerian officials have set up a crisis team at the Algiers airport, while Swiftair said emergency equipment and personnel have been deployed to find out what happened to the plane.
According to Burkina Faso's Ministry of Transportation, there were 110 passengers and six crew members on board, including 50 French citizens and 24 Burkinabe. They said most of the passengers were in transit to destinations in Europe.
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