Algerian Passenger Plane Crashes in North Africa

Airline officials say the flight carried 112 passengers and seven crew members and disappeared somewhere over the Sahara Desert.

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Aviation authorities have lost contact with an Air Algerie flight en route to Algiers from Burkina Faso, raising fears of another major airline disaster. The McDonnell Douglas MD-83 aircraft was flying from Ouagadougou, the capital city of Burkina Faso, to Algeria when it disappeared from radar about 50 minutes into the flight.

Airline officials say the flight carried 112 passengers and seven crew members. The plane is owned by a Spanish company called Swiftair and operated by Air Algerie. If the plane went down, it is believed it could have crashed somewhere in the nation of Niger. The BCC reports that the pilot asked air traffic control in that country to change course, because of a storm.

The path of Flight AH5017 also could have taken it over the country of Mali, where al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb terrorists continue to operate, though there is no evidence of terrorism at this time, and French officials say it is unlikely that they have the weapons to bring an aircraft down from the ground.

This would be third major air disaster in the last seven days. On Wednesday, a TransAsia Airways plane crashed in Taiwan killing 48 people, and one week ago today, Malaysia Air Flight 17 was shot down over Ukraine, killing 298 people. In addition, though it's on a much smaller scale, a teenage pilot from Indiana died after crashing his plane near American Samoa this week while attempting an around-the-world flight with his father, who is still missing.

Update: 9:18 a.m. ET: Algerian officials have confirmed that the plane crashed, though they have not revealed any information about its location. The BBC says the current best guess is that it went down near the city of Gao, in Northeastern Mali.

Update: 10:37 a.m. ET: Fox News reports that French fighter jets have indeed located the wreckage in Mali, near Gao.

Update: 2:55 p.m. ET: Contradicting the earlier reports, French government officials say they have still not located the wreckage. Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said "Despite intensive search efforts no trace of the aircraft has yet been found," though they believe the plane did crash in Mali.

This is a developing story and we'll continue to update as information becomes available.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.