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Wreckage of Air Algerie plane carrying 116 people found in Mali

Updated: 2014-07-25 07:55

Wreckage of Air Algerie plane carrying 116 people found in Mali

The sister-in-law of Lebanese passenger Randa Daher reacts as she holds her mobile phone displaying a picture of Randa and one of her children at her home in the southern Lebanese village of Srifa July 24, 2014. According to local media, Randa and her children were on board Air Algerie flight AH 5017. [Photo/Agencies]

McDonnell Douglas MD-83

Twin rear-engined, short-medium range airliner

More powerful version of the MD-80 type, based on earlier DC-9

Range: 4,637km (2,881 miles)

Capacity: 172 passengers

First flew: 1985

ALGIERS/BAMAKO - Authorities said on Thursday they located the wreckage of an Air Algerie flight after it crashed in northern Mali carrying 116 passengers and crew, nearly half of them French, en route from Burkina Faso to Algeria.

Regional aviation officials said they had lost contact with flight AH5017 at around 0155 GMT on Thursday, less than an hour after takeoff, following a request by the pilot to change course due to bad weather.

Two French Mirage fighter jets and United Nations helicopters on Thursday had for hours hunted for the wreck of the McDonnell Douglas MD-83 plane in remote northern Mali, a region prey to scattered Islamist militants and Tuareg separatist fighters.

Malian state television said the wreckage of the flight was discovered between the town of Gossi and the Burkina Faso border. It said President Ibrahima Boubacar Keita would visit the site of the crash on Friday.

General Gilbert Diendere, a member of the crisis unit in Burkina Faso, said his team of investigators had already inspected the wreckage near the village of Boulikessi, 50 km (31 miles) from the frontier.

"This team has confirmed that it has seen the remains of the plane, totally burned out and scattered on the ground," Diendere told local television, adding the remains of dead bodies had also been discovered.

"Sadly, the team saw no one on site. It saw no survivors."

Communications Minister Alain Edouard Traore said the accident was the worst in Burkina Faso's aviation history. President Blaise Compaore declared two days of national mourning, starting on Friday.

Burkina Faso authorities said the passenger list included 51 French, 27 Burkinabe, eight Lebanese, six Algerians, five Canadians, four Germans, two from Luxembourg, one Cameroonian, one Belgian, one Egyptian, one Ukranian, one Swiss, one Nigerian and one Malian.

The Lebanese Foreign Ministry said its embassy in Abidjan estimated the number of Lebanese citizens on the flight was at least 20, some of whom may have dual nationality.

"We don't know anything yet. We have just heard from the news that the plane went missing," said Amina Daher, whose sister-in-law Randa was travelling on the plane with her three children, and returning to Beirut to celebrate the Muslim religious festival of Eid El-Fitr with her family.

Herders “saw the plane fall"

Another plane crash is likely to add to nerves over flying a week after a Malaysia Airlines plane was downed over Ukraine, and a TransAsia Airways plane crashed off Taiwan during a thunderstorm on Wednesday. International airlines also temporarily cancelled flights into Tel Aviv this week, citing security concerns amid the instability in Gaza.

Swiftair, the private Spanish company that owns the plane, confirmed the MD-83 operated by Air Algerie was carrying 110 passengers and six crew. It said it took off from Burkina Faso at 0117 GMT and was due to land at 0510 GMT, but never reached its destination.

A spokeswoman for SEPLA, Spain's pilots union, said the six crew were from Spain.

A local official in Gossi said the crash had been witnessed by a group of herders near the village of Hamni-Ganda, and word was passed to authorities in Burkina Faso.

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