Algerian officials confirmed the crash of a passenger airliner earlier today in the desert near the border of Mali. Algeria Air Flight 5017 carrying 110 passengers and six crew was en route from Burkina Faso to Algeria’s capital when it disappeared from radar over northern Mali.
Two Algeria fighter jets spotted the wreckage in the desert. The MD-83 aircraft was diverted from its flight path due to a thunderstorm. Heavy rains and high winds were reported in the area before the crash. Rumors that Fidel Castro’s niece Mariela Castro was on board the plane are false.
Yesterday’s plane crash capped off one of the deadliest weeks in aviation history. 289 people were killed when Malaysian Airlines flight 17 was shot down over the Ukraine on July 17, and 48 people are reported dead in a plane crash in Taiwan on Wednesday.
The state-run Algeria Press Service news agency cited Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal as saying search operations for the plane, an MD-83, were still continuing.
The airline tweeted that among those on board were 50 people from France, 24 from Burkina Faso, eight Lebanese, six Algerians, five Canadians, four Germans, two from Luxembourg, one from Mali, one Cameroonian, one Belgian, one Ukrainian, one Romanian and one Swiss.
A U.S. State Department official said it was not aware at this time of any Americans on the flight.
The Ouagadougou Airport statement claimed that Mariela Castro, daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro, was among those on board.
However, the National Center for Sexual Education in Havana, Cuba, which Mariela Castro runs, denied the reports and told CNN she was at an event in Havana. Castro subsequently told a Telesur anchor who interviewed her by phone, “I’m alive, kicking, happy and healthy!”