Algiers, April 11 (IANS) At least 257 people were killed on Wednesday after an Algerian military aircraft crashed shortly after taking off from Boufarik military airfield outside the capital, the Defence Ministry said.
The majority of the victims were from military, comprising 247 passengers and 10 crew members, all of whom were killed when the Soviet-manufactured Ilyushin aircraft crashed into a field near the airbase between Algiers and the city of Blida, the BBC reported citing the Ministry as saying.
The aircraft was en route to southwest province of Bechar. It was not clear what caused the crash. It is the deadliest plane crash since 2014, when 298 people were killed after a Malaysian airlines jet was shot down over Ukraine.
Algerian TV station Ennahar showed images of smoke rising from the plane’s fuselage, tilted to one side, with part of the aircraft sticking out above olive trees.
Dozens of bodies were seen in numbered bags as paramedics and firefighters worked at the crash site. Cranes at the site were trying to move the debris.
Among the dead were 26 members of the Polisario Front, seeking independence from Morocco for Western Sahara and supported by Algeria, reports said.
Army Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Ahmed Gaid Salah extended condolences to the families of the victims and ordered an investigation into the crash. The authorities were working to identify remains of those killed.
One man told Ennahar TV station that he was at home when he heard an explosion and drove to the site, where they tried to put out the fire and reach victims. “We saw bodies … it was a catastrophe.”
“We were afraid the plane would explode. We covered some bodies and put out some fires,” he said.
The crashed aircraft has been involved in a number of crashes, most recently in 2016 when one on a firefighting mission crashed near Lake Baikal in northeast Siberia, killing all 10 crew members on board.