Air Algerie AH5017: Terrorism Probed After Plane Crash Kills 116 Near War-Torn Region

Air Algerie AH5017: Terrorism Probed After Plane Crash Kills 116

Air Algerie flight AH5017 went down Thursday over a war-torn region on Mali, prompting fears that the tragedy could be another act of terrorism.

The plane crashed just days after Ukrainian rebels shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, killing all 298 people aboard. The Algerian plane went missing on Thursday during a flight from Burkina Faso to Algeria, with two French fighter jets later discovering the wreckage.

“The plane would have crashed in the region of Tilemsi, 70km from Gao,” Air Algerie tweeted.

The cause of the Air Algerie AH5017 crash is still not known, though Burkina Faso’s transportation minister noted that it had to change course at 1:38 am GMT because of a storm.

“The plane was not far from the Algerian frontier when the crew was asked to make a detour because of poor visibility and to prevent the risk of collision with another aircraft on the Algiers-Bamako route,” an anonymous source told AFP.

But there are fears that the Algerian plane crash could be the result of terrorism. The Algerian Ministry of Defense has not ruled out terrorism, though French officials said it appears to be beyond the capability of fighters in Mali. Combatants are not believed to possess the same kind of weaponry as Ukrainian rebels, who shot down MH17 at an altitude greater than 30,000 feet.

But as NBC News noted, the region has been racked with violence:

Earlier, an Algerian official told Reuters that the last contact with the jet was over Gao, Mali. An influx of arms and fighters from the 2011 Libyan civil and an attempted coup the following year has left Mali in turmoil. Gao has witnessed recent attacks involving both Tuareg separatist rebels and al Qaeda-linked militants.

While terrorism has neither been confirmed nor ruled out, Air Algerie AH5017 comes at an already tragic time for air travel. After the downing of MH17, a TransAsia plane crashed near a Taiwanese island, killing all 48 people aboard.