Algeria’s Defense Ministry said that those killed included 247 passengers and 10 crew members. Among the victims were 26 members of the Western Saharan Polisario independence movement.
A military plane carrying soldiers and their families crashed soon after takeoff in a farm field in northern Algeria on Wednesday, killing 257 people in what appeared to be the worst plane crash in the North African nation’s history.
Algeria’s Defense Ministry said that those killed included 247 passengers and 10 crew members.
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.
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The cause of the crash was unclear, and an investigation has been opened, according to a defence ministry statement.
Emergency services converged on the area near the Boufarik military air base after the crash.
Mohammed Achour, chief spokesman for the civil protection agency, said the Soviet-designed Ilyushin-76 military transport was carrying soldiers. The defence ministry did not provide a death toll but expressed condolences to the victims’ families.
Television footage showed black smoke billowing near a motorway and a crowd of security officials and others standing in a field next to the crash site.
The tail fin of a plane could be seen above olive trees, with smoke and flames rising from the wreckage.
The flight had just taken off from Boufarik, about 30 kilometres 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 neighbouring Western Sahara, a disputed territory annexed by Morocco.
Passengers aboard the plane included 26 members of the Western Saharan Polisario independence movement, an official in Algeria’s ruling FLN party said.
FLN Secretary General Djamel made the comment to private broadcaster Ennahar TV but gave no total death toll in the crash, which happened outside Algiers.
The plane was headed to Tindouf in Algeria’s south, home to camps for refugees from a long-running territorial dispute in Western Sahara, when it crashed.
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 defence 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.