More than 250 people have been killed when a military plane crashed soon after take-off in a farm field in northern Algeria, according to the country’s state media.
- 257 people died in the crash
- 26 were members of an Algerian-backed military group fighting for Western Sahara independence from Morocco
- In 2014, an Algerian military plane crashed killing 77
Television footage showed crowds gathering around the smoking and flaming wreckage near Boufarik airport southwest of Algiers.
A line of white body bags could be seen on the ground next to what media said was a Russian Ilyushin transport plane.
A total of 257 people died in the crash, state TV reported.
The cause of the crash was unclear, and an investigation has been opened, according to a Defence Ministry statement.
Emergency services converged on the area near the Boufarik military base after the crash.
Mohammed Achour, chief spokesman for the civil protection agency, said the plane was carrying soldiers.
The flight had just taken off from Boufarik, about 30 kilometres south-west of the capital Algiers, for a military base in Bechar in southwest Algeria, Mr Achour said.
The Soviet-designed Il-76 military transport plane crashed in an agricultural zone with no residents, Mr Achour said. It was scheduled to make a layover in Tindouf in southern Algeria, home to many refugees from the neighbouring Western Sahara, a disputed territory annexed by Morocco.
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 neighbouring Western Sahara — a territory also claimed by Morocco in a long-running dispute.
UN attempts to broker a settlement have failed for years in the vast desert area, which has been 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 Defence Ministry issued a statement expressing condolences to families of the victims.