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September 20, 2014

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Official: Wreckage of Air Algeria plane found in Mali

Image

Kevin Cleynhens / AP

This photo taken on Friday, May 16, 2014 shows an MD-83 aircraft in the livery of Swiftair landing at Zaventem Airport Brussels.

Updated Thursday, July 24, 2014 | 3:30 p.m.

OUAGADOUGO, Burkina Faso — The wreckage of the Air Algeria plane that went missing Thursday has been found about 50 kilometers (31 miles) from the border of Burkina Faso near the village of Boulikessi in Mali, a presidential aide said.

"We sent men with the agreement of the Mali government to the site and they found the wreckage of the plane with the help of the inhabitants of the area," said Gen. Gilbert Diendere, a close aide to president Blaise Compaore and head of the crisis committee set up to investigate the flight.

"They found human remains and the wreckage of the plane totally burnt and scattered," he said.

He told The Associated Press that they went to the area after hearing from a resident who described seeing a plane go down.

The Air Algerie jetliner was carrying 116 people. It vanished Thursday in a rainstorm over restive northern Mali, and French officials had said it has probably crashed — the third major international aviation disaster in a week.

French fighter jets, U.N. peacekeepers and others had been hunting for signs of wreckage of the MD-83 plane in the remote region. Scattered separatist violence may hamper any eventual investigation into what happened.

Families from France to Canada and beyond waited anxiously for signs of Flight 5017 and their loved ones aboard. Nearly half of the passengers were French, many en route home from Africa.

The plane, owned by Spanish company Swiftair and leased by Air Algerie, disappeared from radar screens less than an hour after takeoff, en route from Burkina Faso's capital of Ouagadougou to Algiers.

Before vanishing, the pilots sent a final message to ask Niger air control to change its route because of heavy rain, Burkina Faso Transport Minister Jean Bertin Ouedraogo said.

Burkina Faso's government spokesman said on national TV the country will observe 48 hours of mourning.

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