MADRID, July 24 (Xinhua) -- The Spanish company Swiftair announced the disappearance of one of its aircraft in the early hours of Thursday.
"Our emergency teams are working out to discover what happened and as we begin to discover more details we will publish further communiques," confirmed Swiftair.
The aircraft, being operated for Air Algerie, flight AH5017 from Burkina Faso en-route to Algeria, is an MD-83. It has 116 people on board.
The MD-83 has been identified as the aircraft which used to be known as 'La Saeta' and was used to carry the Real Madrid team to away games between 2007-2009. It was carrying 110 passengers and a crew of 6.
Authorities in Mali have reported that contact with the plane was lost close to the town of Gao, which has been the scene of fierce fighting between African and French troops against radical Islamists.
However, Spanish TV network, RTVE says the French military have ruled out that the plane was deliberately shot down.
"The aircraft was not far from the border with Algeria when the crew were asked to change course in order to avoid a collision with another aircraft. Afterwards the signal was lost," confirmed Air Algerie.
Meanwhile local weather reports showed the area the plane was flying through was affected by "violent storms with powerful gusts of wind and an important amount of electrical activity."
Swiftair was founded in 1986 and currently has a staff of 400 and a fleet of 30 aircraft.
French, Algerian air forces search for missing Air Algerie plane
ALGIERS, July 24 (Xinhua) -- French Air Force units in Mali and Algerian Air Force have launched a joint operation to search for an Air Algerie passenger plane that disappeared early Thursday while flying over northern Mali, a security source told Xinhua.
The source, who spoke to Xinhua on the condition of anonymity, said air search operations were focused on the desert areas near the border between Mali and Niger, adding that the Algerian authorities have requested support from the governments of Mali and Niger. Full story
Many French passengers on board missing Air Algerie plane: minister
PARIS, July 24 (Xinhua) -- French Transport Minister Frederic Cuvilier on Thursday said "likely many" French passengers were on board of Air Algerie flight which reported missing.
Speaking to the news channel BFMTV, the minister announced "likely many French passengers were on board. We opened a crisis centre." Full story