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The pilot of the Swiftair MD-83 plane, pictured here in June, had asked to change course
The pilot of the Swiftair MD-83 plane, pictured here in June, had asked to change course

The wreck of a plane that disappeared with 116 people on board on a flight from Burkina Faso to Algiers has been found in Mali, officials say.

The French president’s office said that troops were on their way to secure the site, about 50km (30 miles) from the Burkina Faso border.

Air traffic controllers lost contact with the plane early on Thursday after pilots reported severe storms.

The passengers on the Air Algerie flight included 51 French citizens.

The McDonnell Douglas MD-83 – Flight AH 5017 – had been chartered from Spanish airline Swiftair.

President Francois Hollande expressed solidarity with the friends and families of those on board.

“A French military unit has been sent to (the area) to secure the site and gather evidence,” his office said in a statement.

The statement went on to say that the plane had “disintegrated”, without giving further details.

The crash site was identified on Thursday by the Burkina Faso army.

“At the moment we have no further information on (the fate of) the passengers but our teams are hard at work” said Gilbert Diendere, a Burkina Faso army general.

Gen Diendere said Mali had agreed to their cross-border search which was launched after a resident in Gossi described seeing a plane go down to the south-west of the town.

“They found human remains and the wreckage of the plane totally burnt and scattered,” he told the Associated Press news agency.

Malian state television confirmed that the wreckage was found in the village of Boulikessi by a helicopter from Burkina Faso.

French fighter jets and UN helicopters had been hunting for the wreck in the more remote desert region of northern Mali between Gao and Tessalit.

Contact with Flight AH 5017 was lost about 50 minutes after take-off from Ouagadougou early on Thursday morning, Air Algerie said.

The pilot had contacted Niger’s control tower in Niamey at around 01:30 GMT to change course because of a sandstorm, officials say.

AH 5017 swiftair flight pathBurkina Faso authorities said the passenger list comprised 27 people from Burkina Faso, 51 French, eight Lebanese, six Algerians, two from Luxembourg, five Canadians, four Germans, one Cameroonian, one Belgian, one Egyptian, one Ukrainian, one Swiss, one Nigerian and one Malian.

The six crew members are Spanish, according to the Spanish pilots’ union.

Flight AH 5017 flies the Ouagadougou-Algiers route four times a week, AFP reported.

BBC West Africa correspondent Thomas Fessy says it a route often used by French travelers.

BBC

20 Lebanese onboard including 10 children

The Lebanese Foreign Affairs Ministry issued a statement saying that the Lebanese embassy in Abidjan informed it that 20 Lebanese were onboard the ill-fated plane.

Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil told The Daily Star Thursday evening that a delegation from his ministry along with officials from General Security and the Higher Relief Committee will fly to Mali to inpect the crash site.

An official source in Lebanon told AFP that among the Lebanese onboard of the AH5017 flight were three couples with 10 children.

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.

A Lebanese diplomatic source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said families from south Lebanon were also onboard the plane, including Randa Bassma Daher and her children, Mounji Hasan and his family and Mohammad Akhdar.

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