An Air Algerie flight carrying 110 passengers and six crew members has reportedly crashed in Mali after having disappeared from radar early on Thursday morning between Burkina Faso and Algeria.
"I have just been informed that the wreckage has been found between Aguelhoc and Kidal," Mali's president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, said at a meeting of political, religious and civil society leaders in Bamako, reported Reuters. Aguelhoc and Kidal are located in a desert region in the north of the country.
A French Ministry of Defense had told Fox News earlier that the two French fighter jets located the wreckage, while the airline placed the likely location of the crash further south west.
Air Algerie tweeted: FLASH Info: AH5017 the aircraft would be crashed to Tilemsi. The aircraft would be crashed in the region of Tilemsi, 70 km from Gao.
FLASH INFOS : AH5017 : 50 Français a bord.
— Air Algérie (@Air_Algerie) July 24, 2014
Meanwhile, an Algerian aviation source, who wished to remain anonymous, told AFP that “the plane was not far from the Algerian frontier when the crew was asked to make a detour because of poor visibility and to prevent the risk of collision with another aircraft on the Algiers-Bamako route.”
“We are totally mobilized, both in Paris, and at crisis centers in Algiers and Ouagadougou, where our embassies are in constant contact with local authorities and the airline,” the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on their website.
Two French fighter jets have been dispatched to help locate the flight, a French army spokesperson told Reuters.
"Two Mirage 2000 jets based in Africa were dispatched to try and locate the Air Algerie plane that disappeared on Thursday." Gilles Jaron said. "They will search an area from its last known destination along its probable route," he added.
The Algerian Ministry of Defense has not ruled out the possibility of a terrorist attack, reported Al Arabiya. However, French officials told AP that it is unlikely that fighters in Mali had the kind of weaponry capable of shooting down a plane.
French President Francois Hollande has postponed a trip to the island of La Reunion, east of Madagascar, by two hours because of the plane crash.
The missing AH5017 was found to be an old Real Madrid plane, 'La Saeta', which was used by the club between 2007 and 2009.
“Among the passengers on flight AH5017 will have been two European officials of French nationality stationed in Ouagadougou and Mariela Castro, niece of Fidel Castro, former Cuban head of state.”
However, Mariela Castro later told Venezuelan channel TeleSUR by telephone that she was 'alive' denying all reports that she had been a passenger. "I'm alive and kicking, happy and healthy," she said. The airport's Facebook page later removed the statement.