Mali President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita said on Thursday that the wreckage of the missing Air Algerie flight has been spotted in his country’s northern desert, reports Reuters from Bamako.
“I have just been informed that the wreckage has been found between Aguelhoc and Kidal,” Keita said. He did not divulge any further details.
Burkina Faso Transport Minister Jean Bertin Ouedrago said the flight was asked to change route at 1:38 GMT because of a storm in the area.
Almost half of the passengers were French citizens, an airline official said. Earlier, two French fighter jets based in the region were dispatched to locate the airliner along its probable route, a French army spokesman said.
Algeria’s state news agency APS said authorities lost contact with flight AH 5017 an hour after it took off from Burkina Faso, but other officials gave differing accounts of the times of contact.
A diplomat in the Malian capital of Bamako said that the north of the country was struck by a powerful sandstorm overnight.
An Air Algerie representative in Burkina Faso, Kara Terki, told a news conference that all the passengers on the plane were in transit, either for Europe, the Middle East or Canada.
He said the passengers included 50 French, 24 Burkinabe, eight Lebanese, four Algerians, two from Luxembourg, one each from Belgium, Switzerland, Nigeria, Cameroon, Ukraine and Romania. A spokeswoman for SEPLA, Spain’s pilots union, said the six crew members were from Spain.
Meanwhile, the flight was checked “two or three days ago” and was “in good condition”, France’s aviation watchdog said.
Patrick Gandil, head of the French civil aviation authority, said, “We examined it and we found almost nothing, it was really in good condition.”