No fewer than 257 people including members of Western Sahara’s Polisario independence movement have been confirmed dead as a military plane crashed in a field outside Algeria’s capital on Wednesday, April 11, 2018, officials said.
Television footage showed crowds gathering around the smoking and flaming wreckage near Boufarik airport southwest of Algiers.
?#DIRECT ? #Algérie
L'avion militaire était à destination de Béchar et s'est écrasé quelques minutes après son décollagehttps://t.co/Uxe6HUFi4X pic.twitter.com/LZpTKEDszH
— Algérie24 (@Alg24net) April 11, 2018
A line of white body bags could be seen on the ground next to what media said was a Russian Ilyushin transport plane.
A member of Algeria’s ruling FLN party told the private Ennahar TV station the dead included 26 members of Polisario, an Algerian-backed group fighting for the independence of neighboring Western Sahara – a territory also claimed by Morocco in a long-running dispute.
The plane was heading to Tindouf, an area on Algeria’s border with Western Sahara, but crashed on the airport’s perimeter, Algeria’s defense ministry said.
Tindouf is home to thousands of refugees from the Western Sahara standoff, many of them Polisario
UN attempts to broker a settlement have failed for years in the vast desert area, which has contested since 1975 when Spanish colonial powers left.
Morocco claimed the territory while Polisario established its self-declared Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic there.
Algeria’s defense ministry issued a statement expressing condolences to families of the victims.
To recall, an Algerian Air Force Lockheed C-130 Hercules had also crashed in a mountainous area in eastern Algeria killing 77 passengers and leaving one survivor in February 2014.
Read more at Aljazeera