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

    US Internet Giants, EU Reach Deal to Combat Online Hate Speech

    Facebook, Twitter, Google and Microsoft commit to ‘quickly and efficiently’ act to clamp down on use of social media to incite violence, terror

    Video Tunisia’s Ennahda Party Begins a New Political Chapter

    Party now moves to separate its political and religious activities; change described by party members as pragmatic response to political and economic challenges facing Tunisia today

    Virtual Reality Fine-tuned at Asia Tech Show

    Microchip designers hope to improve resolution for users of systems that can turn your bedroom into the ocean floor

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Tech Startups Showcase Wares at Amsterdam Conferencei
    X
    Serginho Roosblad
    May 30, 2016 5:11 PM
    More than 20,000 tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and lovers of digital technology came together in Amsterdam recently at the Next Web Conference to discuss the latest developments in digital technology, look to the future and, of course, to connect. In recent years, there has been an explosion of so-called startup businesses that have created devices and applications that have changed the way we live; but, as Serginho Roosblad reports for VOA, there are pitfalls for such startups as well.
    Video

    Video Tech Startups Showcase Wares at Amsterdam Conference

    More than 20,000 tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and lovers of digital technology came together in Amsterdam recently at the Next Web Conference to discuss the latest developments in digital technology, look to the future and, of course, to connect. In recent years, there has been an explosion of so-called startup businesses that have created devices and applications that have changed the way we live; but, as Serginho Roosblad reports for VOA, there are pitfalls for such startups as well.
    Video

    Video US Military's Fallen Honored With Flags

    Memorial Day is a long weekend for most Americans. For some, it is the unofficial start of summer -- local swimming pools open and outdoor grilling season begins. But Memorial Day remains true to its origins -- a day to remember the U.S. military's fallen.
    Video

    Video Rolling Thunder Rolls Into Washington

    The Rolling Thunder caravan of motorcycles rolled into Washington Sunday, to support the U.S. military on the country's Memorial Day weekend
    Video

    Video A New Reading Program Pairs Kids with Dogs

    Dogs, it is said, are man's best friend. What some researchers have discovered is that they can also be a friend to a struggling reader. A group called Intermountain Therapy Animals trains dogs to help all kinds of kids with reading problems — from those with special needs to those for whom English is a second language. Faiza Elmasry has more on the New York chapter of R.E.A.D., or Reading Education Assistance Dogs, in this piece narrated by Faith Lapidus.
    Video

    Video Fan Base Grows for Fictional Wyoming Sheriff Longmire

    Around the world, the most enduring symbol of the U.S. is that of the cowboy. A very small percentage of Americans live in Western rural areas, and fewer still are cowboys. But the fascination with the American West is kept alive by such cultural offerings as “Longmire,” a series of books and TV episodes about a fictional Wyoming sheriff. VOA’s Greg Flakus recently spoke with Longmire’s creator, Craig Johnson, and filed this report from Houston.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora