Air Algerie

Air Algerie jet crashes in rainstorm; 116 people on board

OUAGADOUGO, Burkina Faso — An Air Algerie jetliner carrying 116 people — including five Canadians — crashed Thursday in a rainstorm over restive Mali, and its wreckage was found near the border of neighbouring Burkina Faso. It was the third major international aviation disaster in a week.

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

French fighter jets, U.N. peacekeepers and others hunted for signs of wreckage of the MD-83 plane in the remote region, where scattered separatist violence may hamper an eventual investigation into what happened.

A French Reaper drone based in Niger spotted the wreckage in Mali, about 50 kilometres (31 miles) from the Burkina Faso border, French Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier told France-Info radio on Friday. Two helicopter teams also overflew, noting that the wreckage was in a concentrated area. A column of soldiers in some 30 vehicles were dispatched to the site, he said.

A message posted Friday on the website of President Francois Hollande said the wreckage had been clearly identified despite the disintegration of the aircraft.

“We think the plane went down due to weather conditions, but no hypothesis can be excluded as long as we don’t have the results of an investigation,” French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told RTL radio.

“Terrorist groups are in the zone … We know these groups are hostile to Western interests,” Cazeneuve said.