ALGIERS, Algeria – An Algerian military plane carrying soldiers, their families and some refugees crashed shortly after takeoff on Wednesday in a field in northern Algeria, killing 257 people in what appeared to be the worst of the North African nation aviation disaster. The Algerian Ministry of Defense said that among the dead were 247 passengers and 10 crew members. A group backed by Algeria in search of the independence of Western Sahara said that 30 of its people, including women and children, were among the dead.
The cause of the accident was not clear and an investigation was opened.
The Algerian authorities did not mention any survivors, but a witness reported that he saw some people jump off the aircraft before it crashed at 7:50 am Wednesday. Algerian television Dzair said five people were in critical condition, but it is not clear if they were inside the plane when it crashed.
The flight had just taken off from Boufarik military base, 32 kilometers southwest of the capital, Algiers, to the southwest military base in Bechar, according to Farouk Achour, a spokesman for Algeria's civil protection services. The flight also included a stop in the southern city of Tindouf, he said.
The Soviet-designed Il-76 military transport plane crashed into an agricultural field with no people nearby, Achour said.
Images of the scene are shown, thick black smoke coming out of the field, ambulances and Red Crescent vehicles arriving at the accident site and bags of corpses lined up in the field.
Several witnesses told the Alnahar television station that they saw flames coming out of one of the aircraft engines before it took off. A farmer said some passengers jumped from the plane before the accident.
"The plane started to get up before it fell," an unidentified man lying in what appeared to be a hospital bed told Ennahar TV. "The plane crashed in its first wing and caught fire"
"After taking off, with the plane at a height of 150 meters I saw the fire in its wing, the pilot avoided hitting the road when the flight changed. to the countryside, "witness Abd El Karim told Ennahar TV, according to Reuters.
Another witness said: "We saw the burned bodies, it is a real disaster".
The bodies of the victims have been transported to the central hospital of the Algerian army for identification.
Algeria is huge and air travel is usually the best way to cross the largest nation in Africa.
Tindouf is home to many refugees from neighboring Western Sahara, a disputed territory annexed by Morocco. 19659002] The Polisario Front, backed by Algeria, which seeks the independence of Western Sahara from Morocco, told The Associated Press that 30 refugees who had been treated in Algerian hospitals were among those killed in the crisis on Wednesday.
Algeria President Abdelaziz Bouteflika declared three days of national mourning and prayers for the dead on Friday.
The Il-76 model has been in production since 1970 and has a good record of overall safety. It is widely used for commercial transportation of goods and military. The Algerian army operates several of the aircraft.
It was the first crash of an Algerian military aircraft since February 2014, when a C-130 Hercules manufactured in the United States crashed into a mountain in Algeria, killing at least 76 people and leaving only one survivor.
The great loss of life of the soldiers would surely shake Algeria to the core. The National Liberation Army – which emerged from the fighting force that liberated Algeria from French colonial rule – is venerated by the Algerians.
Today, the army has the merit of saving the nation from a deadly insurgency by Islamist extremists in the 1990s and early 2000s. The battle continues with sporadic attacks around Algeria and networks dismantled by soldiers.
The experience of the army in the fight against terrorism has made it a valuable ally of the United States. UU And other western nations.
The Embassy of the United States in Algiers expressed its "deepest condolences" to "our partners and colleagues in the Algerian army" and their families.
The previous deadliest accident on Algerian soil occurred in 2003, when 102 people died after a civilian plane crashed at the end of the runway in Tamanrasset. There was only one survivor in that clash.
Also in 2003, 10 people were killed when a C-130 from the Algerian Air Force crashed after an engine caught fire shortly after taking off from the air base near Boufarik, according to Air Safety. Red.