Air Algérie flight AH5017
A long page from Le Figaro gives an account of what happened from the moment they knew the plane was down. They learned that persons of numerous nationalities were on board, including several families with many children. François Hollande delayed his departure for Reunion Island. An expert from the Algerian TSA stated that the Spanish plane, chartered by Air Algérie, had already had several engine breakdowns (another expert in Marseille, who had examined the plane said it was in good condition). Fifty-one French nationals were on board. Around 5:00 p.m. on July 24 Laurent Fabius declared that the plane had "probably crashed". A few minutes later the plane was sighted in the desert, in an area difficult to reach. The rumor that Fidel Castro's niece was on board was not true. The Paris prosecutor opened an inquiry into "involuntary homicide", a measure authorized by French law when French victims have been identified, even if the event takes place in a foreign country. Hollande cancelled all trips and said that everything would be done to recover the plane. An eye-witness claimed to have seen the pane "fall" in the Gossi zone in northern Mali. Foreign minister Laurent Fabius said that all hypotheses would be examined. Nothing, not even terrorism, was excluded, but bad weather seemed to be a factor. The pilot had requested permission to turn around because of storms.
On July 25 it was announced that the wreckage had been found in northern Mali and that the plane had completely disintegrated. A detachment of one hundred French soldiers was sent to the site of the crash. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve expressed doubts that the plane exploded in mid-air, preferring the hypothesis of bad weather. The secretary of State for Transportation, Frédéric Cuvillier, excluded the theory that the plane was shot down by a missile. Le Parisien revealed that the crew was not experienced on this route. Seven members of one family were on board. An audio excerpt of a family member suggests, from his accent, that they were North African. Another family of five, from le Cantal, were on board, as were a couple and their three children from la Creuse. Ten members of a family from la Loire were on board - a father, his ex-wife, their two sons, their daughters-in-law and their four grandchildren. Gérard Arnoux, of airport security, declared on television that if the debris of the plane was scattered, it probably meant an explosion. General Diendéré of Burkina Faso speaking on television noted that the plane was completely burned, and there were "human remains".
On July 25 François Hollande announced that a black box had been recovered. (Note how miraculous this is - the plane completely disintegrated, but the box was found.) Twenty-one gendarmes were sent to the crash site to help identify the victims. Air France decided to fly around the site as a precaution.
The video below shows scenes of the wreckage. The plane was blown to smithereens, and the debris is scattered over a wide area.
The number of passengers was 118, not 116 as originally thought. Fifty-four Frenchmen were killed. A pilot for Air Algérie was a passenger on board the plane. The pilots on duty were of Spanish origin, the plane being owned by a Spanish group called Swiftair.
There is conflicting information on the crash site, some saying it is accessible and free of jihadists, but others pointing to its inaccessibility because of the savanna and the desert.
After numerous expressions of sorrow and sympathy for the families François Hollande declared three days of mourning for the victims of the crash: July 28-July 30. This move aroused considerable surprise and scorn for Hollande, who inexplicably chose to single out this event from among so many others, including crimes, train wrecks, war casualties, etc… Le Figaro readers reacted:
- This announcement from Elysée is an insult to my intelligence.
- He did not fly the flag at half-mast for the soldiers who fell in combat in Mali and the Central African Republic. He wasn't even present at their funerals. (…)
- Despite the horror of this accident and many others, unfortunately, our president wrote a script so stupid no director would accept it… Even ZZ movies would be more acceptable. Shame on him!
- By inviting the families of the victims of this accident, Hollande offends all the other families who have lost loved ones in other accidents!
François Hollande promised that "all the bodies from the plane" would be brought back as soon as possible to France. He said the families could go to the crash site if they wished where a stele will be erected in memory of all the victims. A second black box was recovered on July 27.
As I post I have no confirmation that a member of Hezbollah was on board the plane, but the rumor has gotten a great deal of attention. François Desouche has information that must be regarded as speculative for now:
Of the 116 or 118 persons on board flight Air Algérie AH5017 that crashed in Mali, at least thirty-three French military personnel including three officials of the secret service and a Lebanese leader of Hezbollah were present. As the Algerian authorities affirmed, the real cause of the accident will be established only after a careful investigation and they do not exclude a terrorist attack. (…) A local paper, citing sources, claims that French troops were on board. There were at least nineteen Lebanese passengers and some of them had dual nationality, including a presumed Hezbollah leader disguised as a businessman. A team of Lebanese experts left for Mali to help in the investigation. Meanwhile, militants of a Movement for Jihad in West Africa (MOJWA), known locally as Tawhid, and Jihad in West Africa, say they are situated near the site of the accident. Al-Qaïda is supposed to have an arsenal of missiles that came from contraband through Libya. But experts persist in excluding an earth to air attack.
We do know the plane went down in free fall - like a stone. There was no attempt to land. "It went down from an altitude of 10,000 meters to zero in about three minutes, a dizzying feat, considering the mass of the plane," stated general Gilbert Diendéré of Burkino Faso.
There has been no new update to the article at François Desouche. Readers' comments denounce everything the television news says, and all conspiracy theories, but they come up with some wild theories of their own.