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Air Algerie Flight AH5017: Plane Crashes Near Mali With 116 Onboard (LIVE UPDATES)

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UPDATE: Wreckage Of Crashed Air Algerie Flight 'Found In Mali'

A search is is underway after an Air Algerie plane carrying 116 crew and passengers crashed after it was forced to divert due to a sandstorm, an Algerian aviation official has confirmed.

Flight AH5017 was flying from Burkina Faso to Algiers across the Sahara when Algerian aviation authorities lost contact with the aircraft, about 50 minutes after take-off, the APS state news agency reported on Thursday.

The passenger manifest says 50 passengers -almost half of those onboard- were French, four were from Burkina Faso, eight Lebanese, six Algerians, five Canadians, four Germans, two from Luxembourg and one from Mali.

There was also one Nigerian, one from Cameroon, one Belgian, one Ukrainian, one Romanian and one Swiss passenger, Air Algerie said. The six crew members are Spanish, according to the Spanish pilots' union.

dah5017

A MD83 Plane

"I can confirm that it has crashed," an Algerian official told Reuters, declining to be identified or give any details about what had happened to the aircraft on its way north.

The plane had been missing for hours before the news was made public, and officials did not make it immediately clear why there had been such a delay in reporting the loss of the aircraft.

There have been mixed reports about the location of the plane, with the head of Mali's National Civil Aviation Agency saying that a search was currently under way for the missing flight.

"We do not know if the plane is Malian territory," Issa Saly Maiga told Reuters. "Aviation authorities are mobilised in all the countries concerned - Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Algeria and even Spain."

The Air Algerie flight disappeared over northern Mali, France's transport minister said. The passenger airliner was last seen at 0155 GMT, when it was flying over Gao, the airline added. It should have landed at 0510.

The city is not on the flight route for the plane but officials said it had been diverted due to poor visibility. The plane was asked to change route at 01.38 local time because of a powerful sandstorm, the Burkina Faso transport minister said.

"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," an Air Algerie source told AFP. "Contact was lost after the change of course."

Mali is at the end of its dry season, during which the "harmattan", a dry, hot wind that blows from the east out of the Sahara, "sweeps the soil into dusty whirlwinds and is accompanied by daytime temperatures of about 40 to 45 °C", according to Encyclopedia Britannica.

The weather map below shows the strength of the storm at the time that the plane disappeared. The green patches show that the clouds would have been up to 49,500ft - a plane's cruising altitude is around 35,000ft.

Two French fighter jets based in West Africa have been deployed to try and locate the missing plane, a French army spokesman has said.

"Two Mirage 2000 jets based in Africa were dispatched to try to locate the Air Algerie plane that disappeared on Thursday," French army spokesman Gilles Jaron said.

"They will search an area from its last known destination along its probable route."

The plane was chartered from Spanish airline Swiftair who said in a statement that the aircraft was an MD83 and first announced that they were unable to establish contact with the plane. Ougadougou is in a nearly straight line south of Algiers, passing over Mali where unrest continues in the north. Flight AH5017 flew the Ouagadougou-Algiers route four times a week, AFP reported.

The country is currently considered a "high risk" flight zone by US airlines, according to the Wall Street Journal graphic.

The downing of the Air Algerie plane comes a week to the day after the Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash in which 298 people died.

air algerie

The plane's route from Ouagadougou to Algiers

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Today (17:31) BST
VIDEO: Crash Site

The Associated Press released footage of the crash site of an Air Algerie plane.

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Frédéric Cuvillier, the French junior minister for transport, said France is ruling out a ground strike as the cause of the crash of the Air Algérie flight over Mali.

French President François Hollande also spoke to the press Friday, updating the number of casualties to 118, more than had been originally reported.

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A French military unit has been dispatched to secure the crash site of the Air Algerie jet that crashed in northern Mali on July 24, The Associated Press reported.

The troops aim to secure the evidence and human remains found about 30 miles from the border of Burkina Faso before extremists take over the area.

"Terrorist groups are in the zone ... We know these groups are hostile to Western interests," French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told RTL radio.

FMI: Click here.

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French investigators believe bad weather may have played a role in the crash of Air Algerie Flight AH5017 on July 24, ITV reported.

"We think the aircraft crashed for reasons linked to the weather conditions, although no theory can be excluded at this point," French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told RTL radio.

For more, click here.

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The French government claimed that the wreckage of the Air Algerie plane that went missing was spotted in Mali's Gossi region, echoing similar reports made.

Malian state TV had reported similarly earlier, followed by a Burkina Faso official who said that the wreckage had been found near the border Mali-Burkina Faso border, the Associated Press reports.

-- Andrew Hart

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Reuters reports that Malian State TV has said that the wreckage of the Air Algerie flight was found close to Gossi in Mali.

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24/07/2014 23:11 BST
More From The AP:

OUAGADOUGO, Burkina Faso (AP) — A Burkina Faso official says the wreckage of the Air Algerie plane that went missing has been found in Mali.

Gen. Gilbert Diendere says the wreckage was located about 50 kilometers (31 miles) from the border of Burkina Faso near the village of Boulikessi in Mali.

Diendere is a close aide to President Blaise Compaore and head of the crisis committee set up to coordinate research for the plane that vanished Thursday in a rainstorm over northern Mali.

He says searchers found human remains and burned and scattered plane wreckage.

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24/07/2014 23:05 BST
AP: Wreckage Found
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24/07/2014 22:55 BST
Swiftair

Swiftair, the company that owns the plane that went missing over Ukraine, says the wreckage has not been located yet.

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From The Associated Press:

Conflicting reports emerged about wreckage spotted in two different sites, several hundred kilometers (miles) away from each other in the sparse, vast region where the Sahara Desert meets the rest of Africa.

Malian Communiciations Minister Mahamadou Camara told The Associated Press on Thursday night that the plane hadn't yet been found and "the search is underway." French military and diplomatic officials also said no wreckage had been found.

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Burkina Faso's army told Agence France Presse that it had located the missing Air Algerie plane in Mali, near the border.

"We have found the Algerian plane. The wreck has been located ... 50 kilometres (30 miles) north of the Burkina Faso border" General Gilbert Diendiere from the Burkina Faso army told the news service.

Diendiere's claims have not yet been verified

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Agence France Press says Burkina Faso's army has announced the wreck of the missing Algeria Airlines flight was found in Mali.

There have been conflicting reports throughout the day about the location of the wreckage. Burkina Faso's airport announced earlier on Thursday French troops had spotted the plane in a remote area. France later denied those claims.

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Reuters reports that Mali's president is stating wreckage of Air Algerie Flight AH5017 has been spotted in the country's north. There have been conflicting reports throughout the day as to the location of the plane.

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Throughout the day, conflicting reports emerged over what had happened to Algeria Airlines flight 5017 on Thursday, and whether the wreckage of the plane had been found. Here's a recap of the contradicting reports today:

- Reuters and CBC reported early on that an Algerian aviation official had confirmed the airplane had crashed. "I can confirm that it has crashed," the official told Reuters, but declined to give more details.

- Speaking to NBC News, an airport official in Burkina Faso also said the plane had crashed and added that the wreckage had been found.

- The airport of Ouagadougou claimed later on its website it had confirmation the airplane had crashed and that French forces had located the wreckage in a remote area in northern Mali.

- French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters in Paris that the plane "probably" crashed, but that the wreckage had not been found. "Despite intensive search efforts no trace of the aircraft has yet been found," French Foreign Minster Laurent Fabius told journalists in Paris, Reuters reports. "The plane probably crashed," he added.

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France's foreign ministry said on Thursday that an Air Algerie plane that went missing over northern Mali has probably crashed. French military jets are searching the area for the wreckage.

"Despite intensive search efforts no trace of the aircraft has yet been found," French Foreign Minster Laurent Fabius told journalists in Paris, Reuters reports. "The plane probably crashed," he added.

An airport official in Burkina Fasa NBC news earlier that the airplane had crashed after altering its route because of a storm.

The flight with 116 passengers aboard was on its way from Burkina Faso to the Algerian capital when it disappeared from the radar.

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24/07/2014 16:55 BST
Mariela Castro: 'Here I Am'

According to TeleSur TV, Mariela Castro reacted on Thursday to (false) rumors she was aboard the crashed Air Algerie plane. "Maybe the media that published the news needed some publicity, but here I am," Castro reportedly said.

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There is growing confusion whether Mariela Castro, the daughter of Cuban leader Raul Castro, was aboard the Air Algerie plane. NBC's reporter in Havana, Mary Murray, reportedly personally saw the woman this morning.

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The plane would have crashed in the Tilemsi region, 70 kms from Gao.
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Ouagadougou airport says Mariela Castro, the niece of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, was aboard the missing plane.


Among the passengers of flight AH5017, there were 2 European officials with French nationality who were stationed in Ouagadougo and Mariela Castro, the niece of Fidel Castro, former head of state of Cuba.
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Ouagadougou airport released a map it says shows the probably crash site of the missing Algerian plane.

map

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The airport in Ouagadougou where the plane departed from posted a statement with the passengers' nationalities on its Facebook page. (Translated from French below)

The aircraft was in the vicinity of Kidal (Mali) where French troops with air support stationed in the city (occupied a few months ago by rebels), have already begun reconnaissance flights.

The nationalities reported by the passengers is as follows (close to a third, however, hold dual nationality)

20 Lebanese passengers
28 Burkinabe passengers
51 French passengers
5 Canadian passengers
4 German passengers
1 Luxembourgeois passenger
1 Swiss passenger
6 Spanish crew members

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Officials tell CBS News Air Algerie plane has crashed.

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24/07/2014 14:47 BST
Map Showing Planned Route
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24/07/2014 13:57 BST
Official: Plane Has Crashed

Reuters reports that an Algerian aviation official has said the missing plane has crashed.

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From Reuters:

PARIS, July 24 (Reuters) - Two French fighter jets based in West Africa have been deployed to try and locate a missing Air Algerie flight, a French army spokesman said on Thursday.

"Two Mirage 2000 jets based in Africa were dispatched to try to locate the Air Algerie plane that disappeared on Thursday," French army spokesman Gilles Jaron said. "They will search an area from its last known destination along its probable route."

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Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal said that the plane disappeared around 3a.m Thursday. The last contact with the plane took place 10 minutes before its disappearance in the Gao region.

"There were 119 passengers on board the plane, including the Spanish crew. Searches are in progress with the relevant authorities. The victims are of multiple nationalities," he said without giving more detail. A representative of Air Algerie, Zohir Houari, confirmed that the disappearance took place above Gao, an area where militant group The Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MOJWA) remains active.

--Said Djaafer

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