Algeria plane crash: More than 250 killed in military jet disaster
MORE than 250 people including Western Sahara refugees were killed when a military plane crashed near Algeria’s capital on Wednesday, state media said, with witnesses saying they saw a wing catch fire shortly after the plane took off.
Dozens of firefighters, rescue workers and military officials worked around the blackened fuselage of the aircraft, which had been ripped open near its wings.
Bits of mangled and smouldering debris were scattered across the field near Boufarik airport southwest of Algiers where people were searching for bodies among the rubble.
Earlier TV images showed flames and smoke billowing from the site of the crash, the country’s worst air disaster.
“This morning at around 8am an Ilyushin model military transport plane crashed directly after take-off in an agricultural field that was clear of residents,” Major-General Boualem Madi told state TV.
A line of white body bags could be seen on the ground next to the wreck of what media said was a Russian Ilyushin Il-76 transport plane, part of which was still intact. Smoke was still billowing hours after the crash.
A total of 257 people were killed, most of them military, the defence ministry said. Ten crew and other people described as family members died, and a number of survivors were being treated at an army hospital, the ministry added.
The plane had been heading to Tindouf on the border with Western Sahara, Algeria’s defence ministry said.
A member of Algeria’s ruling FLN party told Ennahar TV the dead included 26 members of the Polisario Front, an Algerianbacked group fighting for the independence of neighbouring Western Sahara, a territory also claimed by Morocco in a long-running dispute.
A source close to Polisario said that the dead included four refugee children and that around 30 refugees who had received medical treatment in the capital had been killed in all.