Missing Algerian plane crashes in Niger
The missing Air Algerie plane that had at least 20 Lebanese nationals on board crashed Thursday in Niger, Algerian TV reported. The plane had disappeared from the radar Thursday morning, with at least 20 Lebanese onboard, a source at Lebanon's consulate in Burkina Faso told The Daily Star.
Three of the Lebanese passengers were identified as Fadi Rustom and Joseph Hajj from Aintoura in Metn and Omar Ballan from the Kesrouan town of Ghazir.
The source said there were no more than a thousand Lebanese living in Ouagadougou, adding that Algiers is a transit point for Lebanese flying home to Beirut.
A Lebanese diplomatic source, who spoke on condition on anonymity, said two families from south Lebanon were also on board of the plane. According to the source, Fadi Rustom and Joseph al-Hajj are long-term residents of Burkina Faso and own businesses there.
Air Algerie said it lost contact with one of its passenger aircrafts nearly an hour after takeoff from Burkina Faso bound for Algiers.
A company source told agencies that the missing aircraft was a McDonnell Douglas DC-9 and there were 110 passengers. Media reports said there were also 80 French, nationals onboard, along with a crew of six Spaniards.
The source said contact with the aircraft was lost while it was still in Malian airspace approaching the border with Algeria.
Despite international military intervention still under way, the situation remains unstable in northern Mali, which was seized by jihadist groups for several months in 2012.
"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," the Air Algerie source said.
"Contact was lost after the change of course."
The airline announced that the plane had gone missing in a brief statement carried by national news agency APS.
"Air navigation services have lost contact with an Air Algerie plane Thursday flying from Ouagadougou to Algiers, 50 minutes after takeoff," the statement said.
It added that the company initiated an "emergency plan" in the search for flight AH5017, which flies the four-hour passenger route four times a week.
Swiftair, the private Spanish airline responsible for the flight, said in a notice posted on its website that the aircraft took off from Burkina Faso at 0117 local time and was supposed to land in Algiers at 0510 local time but never reached its destination.
Flight AH5017 had been missing for hours before news was made public.