News / Africa

Officials Seek Cause of Air Algerie Crash

  • French and European flags fly at half-staff, Quai d'Orsay, in Paris, July 28, 2014.
  • Algerian Transport Minister Amar Ghoul (center) speaks at a news conference regarding Air Algerie AH5017, in Bamako, Mali, July 27, 2014.
  • President François Hollande announced three days of mourning and ordered that flags on government buildings across France fly at half-staff for three days after the death of 118 people, including 54 French nationals, in the crash of Air Algerie flight AH5017 in Mali, in Paris, July 28, 2014.
  • This photo provided by the French army shows soldiers at the site of the Air Algerie plane crash in Mali, July 25, 2014.
  • This photo provided by the Burkina Faso military shows a part of the Air Algerie plane at the crash site in Mali, July 25, 2014.
  • This photo provided by the French army shows the site of the Air Algerie plane crash in Mali, July 25, 2014.
  • This photo provided by the French army shows the site of the Air Algerie plane crash in Mali, July 25, 2014.

The Air Algerie Crash

Lisa Bryant

Authorities appear to have ruled out a missile attack in the crash of an Air Algerie flight that went down in Mali on Thursday, but many questions remain.

The plane was carrying 118 passengers French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters Friday  - 112 passengers and 6 crew members. Fifty-four French nationals are among the victims.  Fabius said all victims' families have been notified.

In a brief statement at the Elysee palace in Paris on Friday, French President Francois Hollande said French soldiers had reached the crash site of the Air Algerie plane in a northern Mali desert not far from the Burkina Faso border.  Fabius said the team had recovered one of the plane's two black boxes.

French President Francois Hollande holds a news conference after Air Algerie flight AH5017 crashed on Thursday en route from Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso to Algiers at the Elysee Palace in Paris, July 24, 2014.French President Francois Hollande holds a news conference after Air Algerie flight AH5017 crashed on Thursday en route from Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso to Algiers at the Elysee Palace in Paris, July 24, 2014.
x
French President Francois Hollande holds a news conference after Air Algerie flight AH5017 crashed on Thursday en route from Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso to Algiers at the Elysee Palace in Paris, July 24, 2014.
French President Francois Hollande holds a news conference after Air Algerie flight AH5017 crashed on Thursday en route from Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso to Algiers at the Elysee Palace in Paris, July 24, 2014.

The French leader said the aircraft's wreckage was strewn over a fairly small area. Officials say a powerful sandstorm struck the region around the time of the crash. 

Fabius described the crash location as a sandy field that was difficult to reach due to conditions made worse by the current rainy season. He said a small group of 30 French soldiers had been dispatched to the area immediately after the crash site was located, and that the group would be bolstered by an additional 170 troops from France, Mali and The Netherlands. 

While weather may have caused the crash, President Hollande said no hypothesis can be ruled out. The plane had been flying through bad weather, Fabius told reporters, confirming that the pilot had requested a change of course, but experts say that is rarely the only reason for a crash.

Missile strike, bomb ruled out

Terrorism has not been ruled out, since militants are known to operate in the area.  But officials say the plane did not likely explode in the air, since the debris is scattered over a relatively small area. Earlier, France's Transportation Minister said experts had ruled out a missile strike, like the one that downed the Malaysian airliner over eastern Ukraine.

Experts say a bomb may also be unlikely, because it seems the plane may have crashed on impact.  Technical failure or pilot error are other options, but officials say the SwiftAir company that owned the plane had a good reputation.

Click to enlargeClick to enlarge
x
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

The flight, which originated in Burkina Faso's capital Ouagadougou, crashed about 150 kilometers south of the Malian city of Gao.  The remote and deserted area was the target of a French military offensive last year to oust Islamist militants controlling it.


In a radio interview,  French journalist and Africa expert Antoine Glaser said the area was less dangerous today than parts further north, but no part of the region is fully secure.

Waiting for answers

In Africa and in France, relatives of the passengers are waiting for answers.
 
“I truly regret to inform you that this plane has crashed and has been found in smithereens," Burkina Faso’s Prime Minister, Luc Adolphe Tiao, told families of passengers on board the flight during a statement at the airport in Ouagadougou.  "So there doesn’t seem to be any possibility to say that there are any survivors. That because the aircraft disintegrated into several pieces, the bodies of the passengers will be difficult to recover.”

Dramane Ouedraogo, who lost seven of his family members in the crash, said he is still in shock.
 
“I live in Ouagadougou, but my family was visiting me from France. I was with them at the airport yesterday, just until the moment of takeoff…Now I have lost my younger brother and his wife, my sister and her four children," he lamented.

According to SwiftAir, a total of 24 Burkina Faso nationals were on the plane, along with the French passengers, six Spanish crew members and eight from Lebanon, six from Algeria, and smaller numbers from at least 12 other countries.

“We are giving all the assistance available and possible to the families of this crisis, and will assist them and rest by their side and work to better support them, doing all that is possible to help them through this tragedy," Burkina Faso’s Minister of Communications, Alain Traoré, said, adding that the government continues to work to identify the cause of the accident and is standing by the families who lost loved ones.
 
Mourning period

Crisis centers have been set up at the airports in Ouagadougou and Algiers to support family members.
 
Burkina Faso’s President Blaise Compaoré announced two days of national mourning for the 24 Burkinabe who lost their lives. Compaore, along with Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, are scheduled to visit the crash site Friday afternoon.
Jennifer Lazuta contributed to this report from Dakar, Senegal, Zoumana Wonongo reported from Ouagadougou, and Amadou Maiga reported from Bamako. 

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

US Secret Service Head: White House Security Lapse 'Unacceptable'

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after a recent intrusion at the White House: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid