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Algeria struck by its worst-ever plane crash, more than 250 dead
 
Algeria on Wednesday was struck by its worst-ever plane crash when at least 257 people lost their lives after a military aircraft crashed soon after it took off in a field near Boufarik military base. The Defence Ministry, confirming the death toll, said those killed include 247 members and 10 crew members. The reason behind the crash is yet to be ascertained. However, an investigation into the matter was immediately announced by the Defence Ministry.

As per Algeria’s ruling party FLN, the victims of the Algerian military plane crash also include 26 members of the Western Saharan Polisario, an Algerian-backed group fighting for the independence of neighbouring Western Sahara – a territory also claimed by Morocco in a long-running dispute.

The flight took off from the Boufarik military base, which is situated 30 kilometers (20 miles) southwest of the capital Algiers, and was headed to a military base in Bechar in southwest Algeria, according to Mohammed Farouk Achour, chief spokesman for the civil protection agency. He added that the flight was scheduled to make a layover in Tindouf in southern Algeria.

The authorities have so far declined to comment on the number of survivors but an eye-witness speaking to local media speaking to Algerian TV network Ennahar said people were seen jumping out of the aircraft before it crashed into the field. A report in Algerian TV Dzair said five people were in a critical state but it’s unclear whether they were inside the plane when it crashed.

Television footage showed black smoke billowing near a motorway and a crowd of security officials and others standing in a field next to the crash site. An unidentified man lying in a hospital was quoted by AP as saying, “The plane started to rise before falling”, adding, “The plane crashed on its wing first and caught fire.” The bodies which were recovered have been transported to Algerian army’s central hospital in the town of Ain Naadja for identification.

Expressing grief over the mishap, the prime minister’s office said the lawmakers and officials observed a minute of silence and paid tribute to the victims. The Defence Ministry also issued a statement expressing condolences to families of the victims. Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika after the crash announced three days of national mourning, adding that prayers for the dead will be held on Friday, news agency AP reported.

The Soviet Il-76 model which crashed today after take-off has been in production since 1970s and is for both commercial and military transport. This was the first plane crash after February 2014, in which several lives were lost. Earlier in February 2014, a US built C-130 Hercules military aircraft mainly carrying military personnel and their relatives had barged into the mountainous region of Oum El Bouaghi. The crash had then claimed the lives of 77 people, while one had survived the mishap. Officials had then blamed the bad weather for the crash.

Another deadliest plane crash in Algeria was back in 2003, when 102 people had lost their lives after a civilian airliner crashed at the end of the runway in Tamanrasset.


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