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Air Algerie Plane Wreckage Found In Mali

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Wreckage from an Air Algerie plane that went missing over northern Mali on Thursday was found near the border Mali-Burkina Faso border.

Burkina Faso presidential aide Gen. Gilbert Diendere told the Associated Press the remains of the plane were found about 31 miles from the Burkina Faso-Mali border.

According to Reuters, Malian President Keita will visit the crash site on Friday.

From The Associated Press:

OUAGADOUGO, Burkina Faso (AP) -- An Air Algerie jetliner carrying 116 people crashed Thursday in a rainstorm over restive Mali, and its wreckage was found near the border of neighboring Burkina Faso - the third major international aviation disaster in a week.

The plane, owned by Spanish company Swiftair and leased by Algeria's flagship carrier, disappeared from radar less than an hour after it took off from Burkina Faso's capital of Ouagadougou for Algiers.

French fighter jets, U.N. peacekeepers and others hunted for the wreckage of the MD-83 in the remote region, where scattered separatist violence may hamper an eventual investigation into what happened.

It was found about 50 kilometers (31 miles) from the border of Burkina Faso near the village of Boulikessi in Mali, a Burkina Faso presidential aide said.

"We sent men, with the agreement of the Mali government, to the site, and they found the wreckage of the plane with the help of the inhabitants of the area," said Gen. Gilbert Diendere, a close aide to Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore and head of the crisis committee set up to investigate the flight.

"They found human remains and the wreckage of the plane totally burnt and scattered," he said.

He told The Associated Press that rescuers went to the area after they had heard from a resident that he saw the plane go down 80 kilometers (50 miles) southwest of Malian town of Gossi. Burkina Faso's government spokesman said the country will observe 48 hours of mourning.

Malian state television also said the debris of Flight 5017 was found in the village of Boulikessi and was found by a helicopter from Burkina Faso. Algeria's transport minister also said the wreckage had apparently been found. French officials could not confirm the discovery late Thursday.

"We found the plane by accident" near Boulikessi, said Sidi Ould Brahim, a Tuareg separatist who travelled from Mali to a refugee camp for Malians in Burkina Faso.

"The plane was burned, there were traces of rain on the plane, and bodies were torn apart," he told AP.

Families from France to Canada and beyond had been waiting anxiously for word about the jetliner and the fate of their loved ones aboard. Nearly half of the passengers were French, many en route home from Africa.

"Everything allows us to believe this plane crashed in Mali," French President Francois Hollande said after an emergency meeting in Paris. He said the crew changed its flight path because of "particularly difficult weather conditions."

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, his face drawn and voice somber, told reporters, "If this catastrophe is confirmed, it would be a major tragedy that hits our entire nation, and many others."

The pilots had sent a final message to ask Niger air control to change its route because of heavy rain, said Burkina Faso Transport Minister Jean Bertin Ouedraogo.

French forces, who have been in Mali since January 2013 to rout al-Qaida-linked extremists who had controlled the north, searched for the plane, alongside the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali, known as MINUSMA.

Algerian Transport Minister Omar Ghoul, whose country's planes were also searching for wreckage, described it as a "serious and delicate affair."

The vast deserts and mountains of northern Mali fell under control of ethnic Tuareg separatists and then al-Qaida-linked Islamic extremists after a military coup in 2012.

The French-led intervention scattered the extremists, but the Tuaregs have pushed back against the authority of the Bamako-based government. Meanwhile, the threat from Islamic militants hasn't disappeared, and France is giving its troops a new and larger anti-terrorist mission across the region.

A senior French official said it seems unlikely that fighters in Mali had the kind of weaponry that could shoot down a jetliner at cruising altitude. While al-Qaida's North Africa branch is believed to have an SA-7 surface-to-air missile, also known as MANPADS, most airliners would normally fly out of range of these shoulder-fired weapons. They can hit targets flying up to roughly 12,000-15,000 feet.

The crash of the Air Algerie plane is the latest in a series of aviation disasters.

Fliers around the globe have been on edge ever since Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared in March on its way to Beijing. Searchers have yet to find a single piece of wreckage from the jet with 239 people on board.

Last week, a Malaysia Airlines flight was shot down while flying over a war-torn section of Ukraine, and the U.S. has blamed it on separatists firing a surface-to-air missile.

Earlier this week, U.S. and European airlines started canceling flights to Tel Aviv after a rocket landed near the city's airport. Finally, on Wednesday, a Taiwanese plane crashed during a storm, killing 48 people.

It's easy to see why fliers are jittery, but air travel is relatively safe.

There have been two deaths for every 100 million passengers on commercial flights in the last decade, excluding acts of terrorism. Travelers are much more likely to die driving to the airport than stepping on a plane. There are more than 30,000 motor-vehicle deaths in the U.S. each year, a mortality rate eight times greater than that in planes.

Swiftair, a private Spanish airline, said the plane was carrying 110 passengers and six crew, and left Burkina Faso for Algiers at 0117 GMT Thursday (9:17 p.m. EDT Wednesday), but had not arrived at the scheduled time of 0510 GMT (1:10 a.m. EDT Thursday). It said the crew included two pilots and four flight attendants.

The passengers included 51 French, 27 Burkina Faso nationals, eight Lebanese, six Algerians, five Canadians, four Germans, two Luxembourg nationals, one Swiss, one Belgian, one Egyptian, one Ukrainian, one Nigerian, one Cameroonian and one Malian, Ouedraogo said. The six crew members were Spanish, according to the Spanish pilots' union.

Swiftair said the plane was built in 1996, with two Pratt & Whitney JT8D-219 PW engines.

Swiftair took ownership of the plane on Oct. 24, 2012, after it spent nearly 10 months unused in storage, according to Flightglobal's Ascend Online Fleets, which sells and tracks information about aircraft. It had more than 37,800 hours of flight time and has made more than 32,100 takeoffs and landings.

It was the fifth crash - and the second with fatalities - for Swiftair since its founding in 1986, according to the Flight Safety Foundation.

The MD-83 is part of a series of jets built since the early 1980s by McDonnell Douglas, a U.S. company now owned by Boeing Co. The MD-80s are single-aisle planes that were a workhorse of the airline industry for short- and medium-range flights for nearly two decades. As jet fuel prices spiked in recent years, airlines have rapidly being replacing the jets with newer, fuel-efficient models such as Boeing 737s and Airbus A320s.

There are 496 other MD-80s being flown, according to Ascend.

---

Corbet reported from Paris. AP journalists Aomar Ouali and Karim Kebir in Algiers, Algeria, Baba Ahmed in Bamako, Mali, Ciaran Giles in Madrid, Spain; Elaine Ganley and Thomas Adamson in Paris, and Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.

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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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