Monday, December 22, 2014   

Air Algerie jet with 116 on board crashes in Mali
(07-25 09:58)

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 screens less than an hour after takeoff, en route from Burkina Faso's capital of Ouagadougou to Algiers.

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

The wreckage 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 wreckage was found in the village of Boulikessi and was found by a helicopter from Burkina Faso. Algeria's transport minister also said the plane's remains had apparently been found. French officials could not confirm the discovery late Thursday night.

"We found the plane by accident" near Boulikessi, said Sidi Ould Brahim, a Tuareg separatist who travelled Thursday 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 The Associated Press.

Families from France to Canada and beyond had been waiting anxiously for signs of Flight 5017 and their loved ones aboard. Nearly half of the passengers were French, many en route home from Africa. --AP   
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