24 - 07
An Algerian official speaking to Reuters has confirmed that the missing Air Algerie Flight, AH5017, has indeed crashed, most likely in northern Mali.
This has also been confirmed by Air Algerie, which revealed through Twitter that the plane has apparently crashed in a region known as Tilemsi, located some 45 miles from Gao, the last major town in northern Mali the plane flew over before disappearing from radar.
Air Algerie Flight AH5017 was a McDonell Douglas-83 flying from Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso to Algeries, Algeria. It left Ouagadougou at 1.17am local time and was scheduled to arrive in Algiers at 5.10am local time on Thursday.
At 1.38am, it contacted the Niamey (Niger) tower requesting a change in course because of looming storm. At 1.55am, contact with the plane was lost while it was at cruising altitude in northern Mali.
While Gao is a rebel held town in northern Mali, it is not believed that the MNLA and other militant groups in the region have the capability of downing such a plane, so it is unlikely that they could have a hand in the plane’s crash.
Furthermore, powerful sandstorms had been reported in the region.
Air Algerie Flight AH5017 was owned by Algeria’s national carrier, but operated by Swiftair, a Spanish firm. There are conflicting reports over how many people were on board, as a recent statement from the Algeria Press Service gives the number of people as 119, which is slightly more than the 116 that had been earlier provided.
The nationalities of the persons on board is also not fully confirmed, save maybe for two facts; the 6 man crew was Spanish, and the overwhelming majority of passengers were French nationals, who are either 50 or 51.
It is also believed there were 27 Burkinabe, 8 Lebanese, 6 Algerians, 5 Canadians, 4 Germans, 2 Luxembourgians, 1 Swiss, 1 Belgian, 1 Ukrainian, 1 Malian, and 1 Cameroonian, among other nationalities.
Because a large majority of the passengers were French, the French air force has been leading efforts to locate the plane with at least 2 fighter jets out on reconnaissance missions to find the plane and has set up crisis centers in airports in Marseille and Paris.
Keep it here to stay updated.
By Matengo Chwanya