Spanish-owned plane with more than 110 aboard disappears over Mali

Air Algérie-operated aircraft was flying from Burkina Faso to Algeria when the signal was lost

Passengers at an Air Algérie desk in a French airport in 2011.
Passengers at an Air Algérie desk in a French airport in 2011.etienne laurent / AFP

Algerian civil aviation authorities lost touch with a Spanish-owned aircraft carrying 116 people aboard, around 50 minutes after takeoff early Thursday morning.

The plane was covering the route from Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, to Algiers.

An Algerian aviation source told Reuters that the MD83, operated by Air Algérie, had crashed, but would provide no more details.

The aircraft belongs to the Spanish company Swiftair, which said in a release that communication with the two pilots was lost soon after takeoff. The Spanish airline pilot union, Sepla, confirmed that the entire crew — two pilots and four cabin crew — is Spanish. One of the cabin crew is from the Basque city of San Sebastián, according to the Basque Country’s emergency services.

Spain’s airline pilot union confirmed that the entire crew is Spanish

Air Algérie said there were 119 people on board, rather than 116: 112 passengers and seven crew members.

Two French fighter jets based in N’Djamena (Chad) are flying over the area in search of the commercial aircraft, which was lost inside Malian airspace, near the Algerian border.

“The plane was near the border when the crew was asked to change course due to bad visibility and to avoid the risk of collision with another aircraft,” said Air Algérie sources. That is when the signal was lost.

“It disappeared in Gao, 500km from the border,” said Algeria’s prime minister, Abdelmalek Sellal.

Reuters quotes a diplomat in Bamako as saying there was a strong sandstorm during the night, and Burkina Faso’s transport minister, Jean Bertin Ouedrago, confirmed that the aircraft was asked to alter course because of the storm.

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