Air Algerie Flight AH5017, which crashed Thursday in a remote region of Mali near the Burkina Faso border killing all 116 people onboard, most likely crashed due to poor weather conditions, French officials said Friday, according to a Reuters report.
Investigators at the crash site concluded that the aircraft had broken apart when it hit the ground, ruling out the possibility of the plane and its passengers being victims of an attack, the report said. Last week, Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 crashed in eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board, and the plane is believed to have been downed by a surface-to-air missile as it flew over a strife-torn region.
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve reportedly told RTL Radio that “the aircraft was destroyed at the moment it crashed,” adding: "We think the aircraft crashed for reasons linked to the weather conditions. No theory can be excluded at this point ... but that is indeed the most likely theory."
French Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier reportedly said the strong presence of aviation gas fumes at the crash site and debris from the wrecked plane being distributed over a relatively small area, suggested the aircraft crashed either due to poor weather, technical problems or a combination of both.
"We exclude - and have done so from the start - any ground strike," Cuvillier reportedly told France 2 television.
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He added that 100 French soldiers stationed in the region were on their way to secure the crash site near the town of Gossi. Last year, France deployed troops to Mali to fight an Islamist insurgency back by al Qaida.
On Thursday, air-traffic controllers lost contact with Flight AH5017 when it was flying from Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso to Algiers, the capital of Algeria, after the pilot of the MD-83 plane requested a change of course due to bad weather.
The passenger list included 51 French nationals, 27 Burkinabe, eight Lebanese, six Algerians, five Canadians, four Germans, two from Luxembourg, one Cameroonian, one Belgian, one Egyptian, one Ukrainian, one Swiss, one Nigerian and one Malian.
According to the report, crash site investigators said there were no survivors.