Algeria will observe three days of mourning following the crash of a military airplane in Boufarik that claimed the lives of all 257 people on board.
President Abdelaziz Bouteflika issued the mourning decree and also called for the victims to be remembered during Friday prayers, while sending condolences to the families of the victims with his heartbreak and shock at the news. He urged Algerians to remain steadfast in their hope and patience as they grieve the tragic loss together.
The crash of the Ilyushin Il-76 happened Wednesday morning shortly after takeoff at Boufarik, about 30 kilometers to the southwest of Algiers. Witnesses described clouds of thick black smoke and what appeared to be a wing on fire before crashing, according to Algerian media accounts. Ten crew members died along with their passengers – almost all of them military personnel and their families – who were destined for Tindouf, in an area along Algeria’s western border that’s home to Sahrawi refugee camps.
At least 30 of the crash victims were from Western Sahara and returning after seeking medical care in Algerian hospitals, the Polisario Front said in its statement. Brahim Gali, leader of the Sahrawi people, declared seven days of national mourning to honor those lost in what is Algeria’s worst air disaster.
The Algerian government continued to remove bodies from a crash scene littered with debris and take them for identification. Authorities also are taking the plane wreckage to the nearby air base at Ain Naadja. Officials have not yet determined the cause of the accident, but Algerian media said the plane was certified to fly through 2023.
Image: Algeria Ministry of Communications