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France hunts for wreckage of Algeria airliner

French foreign minister says Air Algerie plane carrying 116 people had "probably crashed" after disappearing over Mali.

Last updated: 24 Jul 2014 20:22
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France has said it will do all it can to find the wreckage of a passenger jet carrying 116 people which is believed to have crashed in Mali after disappearing from radar.

The plane, designated AH5017, disappeared from radar on Thursday over northern Mali while on a flight from Burkina Faso to Algeria. It was carrying mainly French and Burkina Faso citizens. 

The French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, said the plane had "probably crashed", while the French president, Francois Hollande, said his government would use "all military means" in Mali to help in the search for the plane.

Two French fighter jets are among aircraft scouring the north of Mali for the wreckage, and France has hundred of troops stationed in Mali after defeating an al-Qaeda-linked rebellion last year.

The flight, scheduled by Air Algerie and operated by the Spanish private company Swiftair, was flying in heavy rain, according to reports.

The head of the emergency investigation into the flight said a witness saw a plane "falling" in the region of Goss in the northern part of Mali.

"A witness informed us they had seen the plane falling at 1.50am [GMT]," said Gilbert Diendiere, a general in charged of a crisis unit in Ouagadougou trying and find the jet.

Plane passed inspection

Meanwhile, a French aviation watchdog said the plane was checked "two or three days ago" and was "in good condition".

Patrick Gandil, the head of the French civil aviation authority, said the plane passed through Marseille days ago.

"We examined it and we found almost nothing, it was really in good condition," he said.

The flight path of the plane from Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso to Algiers was not immediately clear. Ougadougou is in a nearly straight line south of Algiers, passing over Mali where unrest continues in the north.

Northern Mali fell under control of ethnic Tuareg separatists and then al-Qaeda-linked fighters following a military coup in 2012.

The French-led intervention in 2012-13 scattered the al-Qaeda groups, but the Tuaregs have pushed back against the authority of the Bamako-based government.

A senior French official said it seems unlikely that fighters in Mali had the kind of weaponry that could shoot down a plane.

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Source:
Agencies
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