Search Begins for Missing Air Algeria Plane

24 July, 2014

Searchers are looking for an Air Algeria flight that disappeared during a trip from the capital of Burkina Faso to Algiers. The airplane is carrying at least 116 people including the crew.

Reuters news agency reported that an unnamed Algerian official said the airplane had crashed. However, Air Algeria told reporters in Ouagadougou that the airplane is still considered missing.

Algeria's official APS news agency reported that the plane was last seen on radar as it flew over the town of Gao in northern Mali on Thursday. That was about 38 minutes after it left Ouagadougou. Air Algeria had paid to use, or chartered, the airplane from Swiftair, a Spanish airline.

Reuters news agency reported that Burkina Faso's transport minister said the plane had asked to change course – its plan for flight- because of a storm in the area.

Algeria - Burkina Faso

A French Army spokesman said Thursday that two French fighter-jet planes have been deployed to try to find the missing flight. The two Mirage jet airplanes are based in West Africa. The spokesman said, "They will search an area from its last known destination along its probable route."'

A Swiftair statement said there were 116 people on the plane. The official Algerian news agency APS said the plane was carrying 119 people including seven Spanish crew members. The airline's representative in Burkina Faso said 50 French citizens were on the passenger list.

Algerian officials have set up a crisis team at the Algiers airport. Swiftair said emergency equipment and employees have been deployed to find out what happened to the plane.

Gao was among towns in northern Mali seized in 2012 by militants linked to al-Qaida. The Malian government regained control after a military operation last year led by the French. But militants continue to attack French and government troops.

This story is based on VOA reports and additional information from Reuters