French minister says Missing Air Algerie plane probably crashed

Paris: The missing Air Algerie plane from Burkina Faso to Algiers, which had French nationals comprising almost half of the 110 passengers aboard, “probably” crashed, French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius said Thursday.

“Despite intensive search efforts no trace of the aircraft has yet been found. The plane probably crashed,” Fabius was quoted as saying by Xinhua.

“If the disaster is confirmed, it is a major tragedy that hits our nation,” he added.

On Twitter, the Algerian airline said: “The AH5017 plane would have crashed in the region of Tilemsi, 70 km from Gao (northern Mali).”

Earlier in the day, Algerian authorities said they lost contact with the plane 50 minutes after it took off from Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso.

Fabius said the Spanish MD-83 aircraft, operated by Air Algerie and which carried 110 passengers and six Spanish crew, asked to change route because of a storm when it was flying over Mali.

The minister said 51 people were French nationals. He did not elaborate.

In an attempt to locate the missing plane, two French Mirage warplanes are searching a large zone in northern Mali, he said.