Was Mali plane crash a terror attack? French president refuses to rule out prospect that Air Algeria jet was brought down as it is revealed a Briton was among the 116 victims
- Francois Hollande refuses to rule out crash was caused by terrorism
- Says France will spare no efforts to uncover why the plane crashed
- Foreign Office confirm that a British national was on board the flight
- Wreckage scattered around crash site after aircraft exploded on impact
- First images and details emerge of the passengers on board doomed flight
- 10 people across three generations of a single French family lost their lives
- Details emerge as it is revealed student ranted about 'rotten' plane online
- YouTube video posted by French man two weeks ago described the Swiftair MD83 aircraft as 'old' and 'barely able to reach the airport terminals'
By JOHN HALL and PETER ALLEN and JENNIFER NEWTON
PUBLISHED: 19:53, 25 July 2014 | UPDATED: 21:07, 25 July 2014
French president Francois Hollande has refused to rule out that an Air Algeria plane, which crashed in Mali yesterday killing 116 people was caused by terrorism.
Mr Hollande has said that France will spare no efforts to uncover the cause of the crash as almost half of the passengers were French.
It comes as the Foreign Office confirmed that a British man was on board the flight and was one of the victims of the crash.
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Crash site: Images have emerged showing wreckage from the Swiftair MD83 plane scattered near remote Saharan village of Boulikessi on the Mali-Burkina Faso border
Debris: Parts of the Swiftair MD83 plane are seen scattered around the crash site. Air navigation services lost track of the plane around 50 minutes after it took off from Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso en route to Algiers
Statement: This morning French president Francois Hollande announced that one of the aircraft's two black boxes has been found in the wreckage. It is now being taken to the northern Mali city of Gao, he said
Air navigation services lost track of the plane around 50 minutes after it took off from Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso en route to the Algerian capital Algiers.
Mr Hollande said: 'There are hypotheses, notably weather-related, but we don't rule out anything because we want to know what happened.
'What we know is that the debris is concentrated in a limited space, but it is too soon to draw conclusions.'
While Interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve added: 'Terrorist groups are in the zone. ... We know these groups are hostile to Western interests.'
A spokesman from the Foreign Office also confirmed that they were offering consular assistance to the family of the British victim.
Prime Minister David Cameron said he was 'deeply saddened' by the death of the British man and said his thought were very much with friends and family.
Mr Cameron has also written to Mr Hollande 'to send sincere condolences for the loss of so many French citizens', Downing Street said.
Images have also now emerged showing bodies and wreckage from the Swiftair MD83 plane scattered near remote Saharan village of Boulikessi on the Mali-Burkina Faso border, confirming the world's third major aviation disaster in a week.
It was this afternoon revealed that the plane in question had been described as 'old and rotten' and 'barely able to reach the airport terminals' in a student's YouTube rant posted online two weeks ago.
Blast: The first images of the Air Algerie crash site in Mali show stark terrain littered with bits of a plane that appears to have exploded on impact
Wreckage: A piece of the doomed plane is seen in the Sahara desert. The aircraft in question was described as 'old and rotten' and 'barely able to reach the airport terminals' in a YouTube rant posted two weeks ago
Destroyed: Images of the crash site show wreckage scattered along a stretch of the Mali-Burkina Faso border
Identifying himself only by the name Fares, a video posted online on July 9 shows the student saying he had flown on the doomed plane on a 1,500 mile journey from Paris to the Algerian town of Batna.
'Air Algerie makes us travel in a plane without a logo, the crew speaks Spanish and they tell us nothing... Please Air Algerie, do your job. We pay a fortune for your tickets, he added.
Despite claims the plane was obsolete and should no longer be carrying members of the public, both Swiftair and Air Algerie have insisted that the plane was in ‘good condition’ and flightworthy.
But mechanical failure will be high on the list of probable causes of the accident, which has been described as a ‘national tragedy’ by French president, Francois Hollande.
French air transport investigators gather at a military airport west of Paris as they prepare to travel to the Air Algeria crash site in Mali
There were 54 French people on board flight AH5107 when it crashed yesterday killing all 116 people on board
t is thought that bad weather had forced the plane, which was travelling from Burkina Faso to the Algerian capital Algiers, off course
Tragic: Four members of the Daher family were on board the doomed flight, including mother Randa (far left), Ali, 17, (back right) and Salah, 15 (front right). Her five-year-old daughter Shaima was also on the plane (pictured left in the arms of her father, who was not on board, and alone in the right-hand image)
Upset: This image shows members of the French Ouedraogo family who died on board the Air Algerie flight. All those with their faces unblurred are believed to have been killed. From left to right, they are Samson, mother Maryse, Noa, father Seydou, and their young daughter Elora
Grieving: Amadou Ouedraogo, from Nantes in France, poses with pictures of his brother, Seydou and his family who were aboard the Air Algerie plane that crashed in Mali yesterday
News of the student's YouTube rant came as the first pictures of the ‘disintegrated wreckage’ of Flight AH5017 were released and details and photographs of those on the flight emerged.
Four members of the Daher family - mother Randa, her sons Ali, 17 and Salah, 15, and her young daughter Shaima, five - were on board the Swiftair MD83 plane when it came down.
They are among up to 20 Lebanese feared dead in the Air Algerie crash in eastern Mali.
The country's foreign ministry said its embassy in Abidjan, Ivory Coast estimated the number of Lebanese citizens on the flight was at least 20, some of whom may have dual nationality.
Officially the nationality breakdown of the 110 passengers stands at eight Lebanese, 51 French, 27 Burkina Faso nationals, six Algerians, five Canadians, four Germans, two Luxemburg nationals, one Swiss, one Belgian, one Egyptian, one Ukrainian, one Nigerian, one Cameroonian and one Malian.
The six crew members are Spanish, according to the Spanish pilots' union.
'We don't know anything yet. We have just heard from the news that the plane went missing,' said Amina Daher, Randa's sister-in law. She also showed journalists photographs of the family.
The family are understood to have lived in Burkina Faso and were travelling via Algiers to Beirut, where Ms Daher and her three children hoped to visit family and celebrate the Islamic religious festival Eid El-Fit.
Victims: Mohamed Akhdar is seen after graduating from university in Lebanon (left). The image on the right shows Bilal Deheini, 43. Both of the Lebanese nationals were on board the doomed Air Algerie flight
Family: Intissar Deheini holds a picture of her brother Bilal and one of his children. Bilal is believed to have been killed in the Air Algerie plane crash in Mali
Tears: Relatives of the Deheini family who were aboard the Air Algerie plane when it crashed over Mali, mourn at the family's home in the village of al-Kharayeb in south Lebanon this morning
Waiting for news: Relatives of the passengers killed in the crash of the Air Algeria flight AH017 attend a crisis meeting with Burkina Faso's Prime Minister at Ouagadougou airport
Long wait: A day after the Air Algerie plane crashed, relatives of passengers attend a crisis meeting with Burkina Faso's Prime Minister at Ouagadougou airport
Ten members of a single French family were also killed in the disaster.
Bernard Reynaud, from Lorette, in the Loire department of France, died alongside his ex-wife, Michelle, who lived in Lyon.
With them were their sons Franck and Eric, and their respective wives Laure and Estelle. The Reynaud’s grandchildren, Nathan, Julie, Alexi and Zoe were also killed.
All were on holiday in Burkina Faso, where they had friends in Ouagadougou – the country’s capital from where they took off on Thursday morning.
They were on 'the trip of a lifetime', according to friends, who said they had travelled to Burkina Faso because a relative had married a Burkinabe.
Christian Plaza, who lives in Paris, said family had at the last minute thought of cancelling the trip as one of the grandchildren, 16-year-old Nathan, had broken his leg and the cast had yet to come off.
Nathan often spent holidays staying with him and his own son, Mr Plaza said, adding: 'My son was waiting for him... he'll never come again. It is a tragedy. It was the trip of a lifetime.'
Also aboard were five people originally from a single family from the central Creuse department, including Bertrand Gineste, a 55-year-old chemist from the town of Gueret.
Mr Gineste and his wife Veronique, and their three children, aged between 14 and 19, were all members of a development organisation in Burkina Faso.
Jean-Jacques Dupre, a friend of Mr Reynaud’s, said: ‘It’s difficult, very difficult, he was an exceptional friend. We worked together for 20 years, and we’ve been friends for 40 years, we studied together’.
Mr Gineste employed 23 people at his Marche pharmacy in Gueret, and was also treasurer of a group aiding Gueret-Zitenga, a department in Burkina twinned with the French town.
Mobbed: General Gilbert Diendere - Chief of Staff to Burkina Faso's president - speaks to the media about the deadly crash
Task: French officials have dispatched a military unit to secure the crash site, which is in territory dominated by al-Qaeda linked Islamist militants and Tuareg separatists, Francois Hollande said this morning
Air navigation services lost track of the Air Algerie-operated Swiftair MD-83 around 50 minutes into the flight after the crew reportedly asked to change course over fears it was flying into a storm.
Shepherds working in the area claim to have seen the plane burst into flames after it was struck by lightning, adding that it broke up into hundreds of pieces on impact with the ground.
A French Reaper drone based in Niger spotted the wreckage, French Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier told France-Info radio this morning.
Two helicopter teams also overflew, noting that the wreckage was in a concentrated area. A column of soldiers in some 30 vehicles were dispatched to the site, he said.
Vanished: Air navigation services lost track of a Swiftair MD-83 passenger plane (like one above) carrying 110 passengers and six crew members after it disappeared off the radar on its way to Algiers
Information: An arrivals screen at Houari Boumediene airport near Algiers showed doomed Air Algerie flight 5017 as 'late' as news broke of the crash yesterday afternoon
A statement from Hollande's office this morning added that the aircraft had been clearly identified 'despite its state of disintegration.'
The plane, which is operated by Air Algerie, was last picked up on radar at 1.55am GMT en route from Burkina Faso to Algiers.
It should have landed in the Algerian capital around three hours later, but didn't arrive.
French fighter jets, U.N. peacekeepers and others hunted for the wreckage of the MD-83 in the remote region, where scattered separatist violence may hamper an eventual investigation into what happened.
French officials have dispatched a military unit to secure the site, according to a message posted on the website of President Francois Hollande this morning.
The plane was found about 31 miles from the border of Burkina Faso near the village of Boulikessi in Mali, a Burkina Faso presidential aide said, adding that it appears to have broken up on impact.
'We sent men, with the agreement of the Mali government, to the site, and they found the wreckage of the plane with the help of the inhabitants of the area,' said General Gilbert Diendere.
General Diendere is a close aide to Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore and head of the crisis committee set up to investigate the flight.
'They found human remains and the wreckage of the plane totally burnt and scattered,' he added.
Fateful path: Contact was lost with flight AH 5017 while it was still in Malian air space approaching the border with Algeria after taking off from Ouagadougou, the capital of the west African nation of Burkina Faso
The list of passengers on the plane includes 51 French, 27 Burkina Faso nationals, eight Lebanese, six Algerians, five Canadians, four Germans, two Luxemburg nationals, one Swiss, one Belgian, one Egyptian, one Ukrainian, one Nigerian, one Cameroonian and one Malian.
The six crew members are Spanish, according to the Spanish pilots' union.
The crash comes after a treacherous week for the aviation industry in which 298 people were killed when Air Malysia flight MH17 plane was shot down over Ukraine and 48 people died in a crash in Taiwan.
Airlines have also cancelled flights into Tel Aviv due to the conflict in Gaza.
The flight path of AH5017 from Ouagadougou, the capital of the west African nation of Burkina Faso, to Algiers was not immediately clear.
However, Burkina Faso Transport Minister Jean Bertin Ouedragor said the flight had been asked to change route because of a storm around 30 minutes after taking off.
Lost: A map on Ouagadougou airport's website reportedly shows AH5017's last contact while over Mali
PRODUCTION OF MD-80 AIRCRAFT MODELS ENDED 15 YEARS AGO
Spanish airline company Swiftair has a relatively clean safety record, with five accidents since 1977, two of which caused a total of eight deaths, according to the Washington-based Flight Safety Foundation.
The MD-83 aircraft which crashed in north Africa is believed to be around 18 years old and one of four owned by the company.
The model is part of a series of jets built since the early 1980s by McDonnell Douglas, a U.S. plane maker now owned by Boeing.
The jet's two engines are made by Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies.
McDonnell Douglas stopped producing the MD-80 airliner family in 1999, but it remains in widespread use.
According to British consultancy Flightglobal Ascend, there are 482 MD-80 aircraft in operation, many of them in the United States.
A source from Air Algerie told the AFP news agency said contact was lost while it was still in Malian air space approaching the border with Algeria.
The source said: 'The plane was not far from the Algerian frontier when the crew was asked to make a detour because of poor visibility and to prevent the risk of collision with another aircraft on the Algiers-Bamako route.
'Contact was lost after the change of course.'
A diplomat in the Malian capital Bamako also confirmed said that the north of the country - which lies on the plane's likely flight path - was struck by a powerful sandstorm overnight.
The vast deserts and mountains of northern Mali fell under control of ethnic Tuareg separatists and then al-Qaida-linked Islamic extremists after a military coup in 2012.
The French-led intervention scattered the extremists, but the Tuaregs have pushed back against the authority of the Bamako-based government.
Meanwhile, the threat from Islamic militants hasn't disappeared, and France is giving its troops a new and larger anti-terrorist mission across the region.
A senior French official said it seems unlikely that fighters in Mali had the kind of weaponry that could shoot down a jetliner at cruising altitude.
While al-Qaida's North Africa branch is believed to have an SA-7 surface-to-air missile, also known as MANPADS, most airliners would normally fly out of range of these shoulder-fired weapons.
They can hit targets flying up to roughly 12,000-15,000 feet.
Danger zones: This graphic shows the areas which U.S. airlines have been banned from flying from or warned to avoid by the Federal Aviation Administration because of conflicts
Waiting for information: Journalists gather outside the Swiftair offices in Madrid after one of its planes operated by Air Algerie disappeared over Malian airspace in north Africa
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.
'Boeing is aware of the report (on the missing aircraft). We are awaiting additional information,' a spokesman for the planemaker said.
The crash comes as a recovery operation got underway in Taiwan to remove plane seats and fuselage from homes after Wednesday's plane crash there killed 48 people.
Yesterday the airline announced that stormy weather trailing behind a typhoon was the likely cause of the crash which also injured ten people on the plane and five on the ground.
The ATR-72 operated by Taiwan's TransAsia Airways was carrying 58 passengers and crew when it crashed while trying to land in the Penghu island chain in the Taiwan Strait between Taiwan and China.
Meanwhile, an international investigation has been launched after Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down by a surface-to-air missile over Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board.
Concerns were first raised about the plane when it disappeared from radar screens while passing over the city of Donetsk last Thursday.
The plane was travelling at 33,000 feet on a pre-determined flight path when it suddenly vanished from trackers, immediately notifying air traffic controllers of the prospect that the plane had either crashed or made an emergency landing.
An Air Algerie office in Paris. The company initiated an 'emergency plan' in the search for flight AH5017
Flight radars generally monitor moving objects only, so if an aircraft disappears from the screens it either means the plane has become stationary or there has been a fault with the tracking system.
Tragically in the case of MH17 the former was true - but it wasn’t until body parts and plane wreckage were spotted scattered over an eight square-mile area in eastern Ukraine that a crash could be officially confirmed.
In the case of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, the latter was the true, where it is believed the radar transponder system was deliberately turned off by someone on board.
That plane is believed to have crashed in the Indian Ocean, killing all 239 people on board, but the wreckage has never been found and the cause of the disaster is unknown.
One of Algeria's worst air disasters occurred in February this year, when a C-130 military aircraft carrying 78 people crashed in the mountainous northeast, killing more than 70 people.
Tamanrasset in the deep south was the site of the country's worst ever civilian air disaster, in March 2003.
In that accident, all but one of 103 people on board were killed when an Air Algerie passenger plane crashed on takeoff after one of its engines caught fire.
The sole survivor, a young Algerian soldier, was critically injured.
WILL YOU GET ON A PLANE AGAIN? AVIATION FATALITIES SOAR 300% - BUT EXPERTS INSIST 2014 IS STILL ONE OF THE SAFEST YEARS IN HISTORY
In a week that has seen three major air disasters, just days before the busiest weekend for airports over the summer holidays, questions are being raised about the safety of air travel.
After a Swiftair flight crashed today, killing 119 people on board, a TransAsia Airways jet fell from the sky yesterday with 47 dead, and the Malaysia Airlines jet that was shot down over Ukraine last week with 298 fatalities, travellers are asking whether it is safe to fly.
Aviation experts claim 2014 is one of the safest years in air transport history in terms of the number of crashes.
However, figures reveal fatalities from air disasters have soared by 300 per cent from last year, including the three major plane crashes in the past week.
Plunged from the sky: Rescue workers and firefighters search through the wreckage where TransAsia Airways flight GE222 crashed in Taiwan, killing 48 people
There have been 763 passengers and crew killed in plane disasters so far this year - 498 higher than the 265 people that died in 2013.
The figure is 396 higher than the 10-year average to July of 376.
It also makes July the fifth worst month in aviation history in terms of aviation disaster fatalities.
However, air travel experts are urging holidaymakers that it is still safe to fly.
Harro Ranter, president of the Aviation Safety Network, described 2014 as ‘among the safest years in modern aviation history – since 1946’.
He added the number of fatal plane accidents this year – including today’s Algerian jet – is 12 – five below the ten-year average to July 24.
The 12 incidents in the past seven months include the TransAsia aircraft that crashed while trying to land on an island off Taiwan, killing all 47 people on board.
The figure is down from the 10-year average of 17 fatal crashes.
Mr Ranter said: ‘The recent accidents do not suggest that there is a specific common underlying safety issue.’
However, figures by the network, which tracks crashes and fatalities worldwide, reveal the number of people killed in air travel disasters has increased significantly already this year, due to the two Malaysia Airlines disasters.
The total number of passengers and crew killed on board the missing MH370, and on board the MH17 flight which was shot down while flying over Ukraine is 517.
Ranter told www.thestar.com: ‘It has been an exceptional year because of these two high-profile accidents, which really mark the safety profile of this year.
‘[The number of fatal crashes is] quite significantly below the 10-year average, although the number of fatalities is markedly higher because of these two high-profile accidents.’
According to International Air Transport Association, which represents 240 of the world’s airlines, more than three billion people flew safely on 36.4 million flights last ye
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