According to CNN minutes ago, an Air Algerie flight with at least 116 people on board which dropped off the radar in the early hours of Thursday appears to have crashed in a remote area of Mali.
Air Algerie said via Twitter that the plane has apparently crashed in the Tilemsi area, about 70 kilometers (45 miles) from the southeastern city of Gao.
Flight 5017 lost radar contact 50 minutes after takeoff from Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, early Thursday (July 24). It was supposed to arrive at Algiers' Houari Boumediene Airport about four hours later.
Ouagadougou Airport said in a statement on its website that French forces stationed in the area had detected the wreck of the plane between Gao and the town of Kidal, in a desert zone that is very difficult to access.
The remote location and security concerns mean it is unlikely that any medical help will get there within 24 hours.
Islamist militants have been fighting the Malian government and French forces in the region for months.
The town of Kidal was occupied some months ago by rebel fighters, but French troops are now based there, backed up by air assets. Mali lies between Burkina Faso and Algeria.
COMMENT: The state-run Algeria Press Service news agency cited Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal as saying search operations for the MD-83, are continuing.
The airline tweeted that among those on board were 50 passengers from France, 24 from Burkina Faso, eight Lebanese, six Algerians, five Canadians, four Germans, two from Luxembourg, one from Mali, one Cameroonian, one Belgian, one Ukrainian, one Romanian and one Swiss citizen.
The Ouagadougou Airport statement claimed that Mariela Castro, daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro, was among those on board. Yet, the National Center for Sexual Education in Havana, Cuba, confirms to CNN that Mariela Castro was at an event in Havana at the time.
France said it was actively seeking more information about the location of the missing flight.
"We are entirely mobilized in Paris as well as in Algiers and Ouagadougou where our embassies are in constant contact with local authorities and the airline," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement, adding that a hotline number has been established.
According to CNN meteorologist Mari Ramos, at the time of the flight, there were thunderstorms in the flight's route of travel.
The MD-83 is part of the McDonnell Douglas MD-80 family of twin-engine, single-aisle jets, although McDonnell Douglas is now owned by Boeing.
Air Algerie is Algeria's national airline, which services 28 countries.
The deadliest incident in the airline's history occurred in March 2003 when a domestic flight crashed after takeoff, killing 102 people aboard.