As it happened: Missing Air Algerie Flight AH5017

Key points

  • An Air Algerie airliner is believed to have crashed in the Sahara, en route from Burkina Faso to Algiers
  • Flight AH5017 had 110 passengers on board, including 51 French citizens, as well as six Spanish crew members
  • Unconfirmed French media reports suggest the plane crashed in either central or northern Mali
  • The plane was chartered from Spain's Swiftair
  • Heavy storms were reported at the time of the crash
  • All times BST (GMT +1)

Live text

Reporting:

  • Bernadette McCague 
  • Patrick Jackson 

Last updated 24 July 2014

BREAKING Breaking News

Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita says wreckage of the missing plane has been spotted in the country's desert north, reports Reuters.

STANDARD 12:20

Good afternoon and welcome to our live coverage of events after Algeria's national airline, Air Algerie, lost contact with one of its planes flying from Burkina Faso to Algiers across the Sahara.

STANDARD 12:20

The flight had 110 passengers and six crew on board. You can read more about the background to the flight in our news story.

STANDARD 12:24

Alex Duval Smith, BBC News, Mali

Contact is believed to have been lost between Gao and Tessalit in north-eastern Mali. The most probable scenario at the moment is that the plane came down in bad weather. Sandstorms in the desert would account for very poor visibility. However, it is possible that it was shot down as armed groups do operate in the area.

STANDARD 12:29

The plane was chartered from Spain's Swiftair. In a statement on its website (in Spanish), Swiftair confirms it has lost contact with its MD-83 aircraft. The plane took off from Burkina Faso at 01:17 GMT and was supposed to have landed in Algiers at 05:10 GMT, it adds.

STANDARD 12:30

France's transport minister says it is "likely" there were "many" French passengers on the flight - Reuters.

STANDARD 12:37

Alex Duval Smith, BBC News, Mali

French and UN troops in northern Mali say they understand the plane came down between the north-eastern towns of Gao and Tessalit. The Nigerian general commanding 1,200 UN troops in Timbuktu said work was only just beginning on trying to trace the aircraft. General Koko Essien told the BBC the area leading up to the Algerian border was vast and sparsely populated. Brigadier General Essien said the weather had been bad in the region overnight.

STANDARD 12:37

French Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier: "There were likely French people on board, and if there were French people on board, there were certainly many of them" - Reuters.

STANDARD 12:38

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, an unnamed Air Algerie company source tells AFP news agency.

STANDARD 12:45

A stock image of a Swiftair MD-83 aircraft. The missing plane was 18 years old and one of five MD-83s owned by the Madrid-based airline, aviation website Flightglobal says.

Swiftair MD-83 plane

STANDARD 12:47

France's Figaro newspaper talks of several" French citizens being aboard Flight AH5017. It disappeared off the radar about 50 minutes into its flight from Ouagadougou to Algiers, it says, quoting Air Algerie.