Government & Politics

257 army personnel, kin die in Algerian plane crash

Algiers (UNA-OIC) A total of 257 people were killed when a military plane crashed in a field outside Algeria's capital on Wednesday, Algerian state TV said, in the country's worst air disaster.

Television footage showed crowds and emergency vehicles massing 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 total of 257 people were killed, most of them military, the defense ministry said. Ten crew and other people described as family members also died, and a number of survivors were being treated at an army hospital, the ministry added.

Deputy Defense Minister General Ahmed Gaid Salah visited the site and ordered an investigation into the circumstances of the crash, the ministry said. 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 neighboring 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 defense ministry said.

Tindouf is home to thousands of refugees from the Western Sahara standoff, many of them Polisario supporters. UN 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 defense ministry issued a statement expressing condolences to families of the victims.

Algeria has suffered a string of military and civilian aviation disasters. Two military planes collided mid-flight in December 2012 during a training exercise in Tlemcen, in the far west of the country, killing the pilots of both planes. In February 2014, 77 people died when a military plane carrying army personnel and family members crashed between Tamanrasset in southern Algeria and the eastern city of Constantine. Only one person survived after the C-130 Hercules transport aircraft came down in the mountainous Oum El Bouaghi region. The defense ministry blamed that crash on bad weather.

An Air Algerie passenger plane flying from Burkina Faso to Algiers crashed in northern Mali in July 2014, killing all 116 people on board including 54 French nationals. In October the same year, a military plane crashed in the south of the country during a training exercise, killing the two men on board. That came more than a decade after all but one of the 103 people on an Air Algerie Boeing 737-200 died in March 2003 when it crashed on takeoff in the country's south after an engine caught fire.

Source: International Islamic News Agency