The Air Algerie flight that went missing while traveling from Burkina Faso to Algiers has crashed, an Algerian official said on Thursday.
“I can confirm that it has crashed,” the official told Reuters. The flight reportedly had 110 passengers on board.
He declined to provide any additional information on flight AH5017, such as the potential cause of the crash. A Malian diplomat told Reuters that the country experienced a powerful sandstorm overnight in an area that lies on the plane’s probable flight path.
"We do not know if the plane is [in] Malian territory," Issa Saly Maiga, the top official for Mali's National Civil Aviation Agency, told Reuters. "Aviation authorities are mobilised in all the countries concerned -- Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Algeria and even Spain."
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Flight AH5017 is a MD-83 that Air Algerie leased from Swiftair, a Spanish private airline company.
A source at Air Algerie told Agence France-Presse that the airline lost contact with the flight after it took a detour due to poor visibility. "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," the source said. "Contact was lost after the change of course."
All six of the flight’s crew members are Spanish. The passenger list includes 50 French nationals, 24 Burkinabe, eight Lebanese, four Algerians, two individuals from Luxembourg, one Belgian, one Nigerian, one Cameroonian, one Swiss, one Ukrainian and one Romanian, an Air Algerie spokesperson said in a press conference. But Lebanese officials claim that at least 10 Lebanese nationals were on board.
According to APS, Algeria's state news agency, Algerian authorities lost contact with Flight AH5017 about an hour after it took off from Burkina Faso, Reuters reports. Other officials have provided conflicting accounts on the flight's disappearance. A pair of French fighter jets were dispatched to look for the missing flight, military officials confirmed.
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"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, via Reuters. "They will search an area from its last known destination along its probable route."