July 24, 2014
CBS News / AP - An Air Algerie flight carrying 116 people from Burkina Faso to Algeria's capital disappeared from radar early Thursday over northern Mali after heavy rains were reported, according to the plane's owner and government officials in France and Burkina Faso.
An Algerian official confirmed to CBS News' Debora Patta that the plane had crashed, but he said it remained unclear where it came down or why.
Air navigation services lost track of the MD-83 about 50 minutes after takeoff from Ougadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, at 0155 GMT (9:55 p.m. EDT Wednesday), the official Algerian news agency APS said.
Burkina Faso's transport minister said 50 French nationals were among those onboard, along with 24 Burkina Faso nationals, six Lebanese, five Canadians, four Algerians, two Luxemburg nationals, one Swiss, one Nigerian, one Cameroonian and one Malian.
Transport Minister Jean Bertin Ouedraogo also said the plane sent its last message around 0130 GMT (9:30 p.m. EDT), asking Niger air control to change its route because of bad weather in the area.
French Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier said the plane vanished over northern Mali. He spoke Thursday from a crisis center set up in the French Foreign Ministry.
The plane had been missing for hours before the news was made public. It wasn't immediately clear why airline or government officials didn't make it public earlier.
Swiftair, a Spanish company that leases aircraft to other carriers, said in a statement that it owns the missing aircraft being operated by Air Algerie. The company said it was a McDonnell Douglas MD-83. The Spanish pilots' union said the plane belonged to Swiftair and it was operated by a Spanish crew.
Northern Mali fell under control of ethnic Tuareg separatists and then al Qaeda-linked Islamic extremists following a military coup in 2012. A French-led intervention last year scattered the extremists, but the Tuaregs have pushed back against the authority of the Bamako-based government.
While northern Mali is still considered to be a hub of the illegal arms trade, Patta reports that diplomats have told her insurgents in the region are not believed to have weapons capable of shooting down a commercial airliner flying at cruising altitude. She notes, however, that the Federal Aviation Administration has issued a warning for U.S. carriers not to fly over Mali.
The MD-83 is part of a series of long-range jets built since the early 1980s by McDonnell Douglas, a U.S. plane maker now owned by Boeing Co.