THE death toll from an Algerian military plane that crashed early yesterday in the military airport of Boufarik, 30 km south of Algiers, has risen to 257, local media reported.
An Ilyushin I-76 troop carrier belonging to the Algerian Air Force crashed yesterday morning in the perimeter of the military airbase of Boufarik, Defense Ministry confirmed in a statement.
Ennahar private television channel said the plane was carrying more than 250 troops and had departed for the southwest province of Bechar, before crashing in an unpopulated green field near the airport.
The flight had just taken off from Boufarik for a military base in Bechar in southwest Algeria, said Mohammed Achour, chief spokesman for the civil protection agency. It was scheduled to make a layover in Tindouf in southern Algeria, home to many refugees from the neighboring Western Sahara, a disputed territory annexed by Morocco.
Army Chief of Staff, Lieutenant-General Ahmed Gaid Salah, has extended condolences to the families of the victims and ordered the opening of an investigation into the incident.
The Firefighting Department said in a statement that 300 firefighters, equipped with 40 ambulances and 40 fire trucks, have rushed to the crash site to extinguish fire and conduct rescue operations.
Footage from the scene showed thick black smoke coming off the field, as well as ambulances and Red Crescent vehicles arriving at the site.
The cause of the crash was unclear, and an investigation has been opened, according to a Defense Ministry statement.
The Il-76 model has been in production since the 1970s and has an overall good safety record. It is widely used for both commercial and military transport.
The Algerian military operates several of the planes. ?(SD-Xinhua)