257 Killed In Algeria Military Plane Crash
A total of 257 people including members of Western Sahara’s Polisario independence movement were killed when a military plane crashed in a field outside Algeria’s capital on Wednesday, officials said.
Television footage showed crowds gathering around the smoking and flaming wreckage near Boufarik airport southwest of Algiers. A line of white body bags could be seen on the ground next to what media said was a Russian Ilyushin transport plane.
A member of Algeria’s ruling FLN party told the private Ennahar TV station the dead included 26 members of Polisario, an Algerian-backed group fighting for the independence of neighbouring Western Sahara – a territory also claimed by Morocco in a long-running dispute.
The plane was heading to Tindouf, an area on Algeria’s border with Western Sahara, but crashed on the airport’s perimeter, Algeria’s defence ministry said.
Tindouf is home to thousands of refugees from the Western Sahara standoff, many of them Polisario supporters.
U.N. attempts to broker a settlement have failed for years in the vast desert area, which has contested since 1975 when Spanish colonial powers left. Morocco claimed the territory while Polisario established its self-declared Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic there.
Algeria’s defence ministry issued a statement expressing condolences to families of the victims.
In February 2014, an Algerian Air Force Lockheed C-130 Hercules crashed in a mountainous area in eastern Algeria killing 77 passengers and leaving one survivor.
At least 100 people were killed when a military plane carrying soldiers crashed soon after takeoff in a farm field in northern Algeria on Wednesday, officials said. The cause of the crash was unclear, and an investigation has been opened, according to a Defense Ministry statement. Local media reported that the plane crashed just after taking off.
Emergency services converged on the area near the Boufarik military base after the crash. Footage from the scene showed thick black smoke coming off the field, as well as ambulances and Red Crescent vehicles arriving at the site.
“There are more than 100 deaths. We can’t say exactly how many at this point,” Mohammed Achour, chief spokesman for the civil protection agency, told The Associated Press.
He said the plane was carrying soldiers. The Defense Ministry did not provide a death toll but expressed condolences to the victims’ families. The flight had just taken off from Boufarik, about 30 kilometres (20 miles) southwest of the capital Algiers, for a military base in Bechar in southwest Algeria, Achour said. It was scheduled to make a layover in Tindouf in southern Algeria, home to many refugees from the neighbouring Western Sahara, a disputed territory annexed by Morocco.
The Soviet-designed Il-76 military transport plane crashed in an agricultural zone with no residents, Achour said. The Il-76 model has been in production since the 1970s and has an overall good safety record. It is widely used for both commercial freight and military transport. The Algerian military operates several of the planes.