Air Algerie plane vanishes from radar

ALGIERS, ALGERIA (CBS)  -- An Air Algerie flight from Burkina Faso to Algiers has disappeared from radar, the official Algerian news agency said Thursday.

Air navigation services lost track of the plane 50 minutes after takeoff early Thursday, last sited at 1:50 a.m. GMT (10:50p EDT), the agency said.

"In keeping with procedures, Air Algerie has launched its emergency plan," the agency quoted the airline as saying.

Swiftair, a Spanish company that leases aircraft to other carriers, said in a statement that it owns the missing aircraft being operated by Air Algerie. The company has confirmed to CBS News that it is a McDonnell Douglas MD-83.

Swiftair said there were 116 people on board, including six crew members.

France's transport minister Frederic Cuvillier said there were likely many French passengers on the plane, Reuters report. An Air Algerie representative in Burkina Faso told Reuters there were 50 French citizens on the passenger list.

The flight path of AH5017 from Ouagadougou, the capital of the west African nation of Burkina Faso, to Algiers was not immediately clear.

Ougadougou is in a nearly straight line south of Algiers, passing over Mali, where unrest continues in the north.

Reuters reports that, according to a diplomat in the Malian capital of Bamako, a powerful sandstorm stuck's the nation's northern overnight.

An Algerian official says the plane was over Mali when it disappeared, according to the Reuters news agency.

A message on the website of Ouagadougou Airport states that contact has been broken with the Air Algerie plane. The home page has been amended to include an image of a lit candle, with the flight designation AH5017.

CBS News' Debora Patta reports diplomats have told her insurgents in northern Mali are not believed to have weapons capable of shooting down a commercial airliner flying at cruising altitude.

But she notes that the Federal Aviation Administration has issued a warning for U.S. carriers not to fly over Mali.


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