A military transport aircraft crashed near Algeria’s Boufarik Air Base on Wednesday morning, killing at least 257 people, according to Algeria’s defense ministry. The plane came down in an open farm field near the base, the ministry says.
The military says it’s not yet sure what caused the crash near its large military airport in northern Algeria, a country in North Africa. An investigation has been ordered.
“The number of martyrs to mourn has risen to (247) passengers and ten (10) crew members, most of whom are personnel from the National People’s Army as well as members of their families,” the Ministry of National Defense said.
The remains of the victims are being taken to an army hospital for identification, the ministry added. There has been no official mention of anyone who survived or was wounded in the crash.
Algeria’s longtime leader, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, issued a statement offering his condolences.
“The Almighty, whose will is inevitable, wanted on this day to test Algeria and its military institution through the crash of one of its planes making a large number of martyrs of national duty, a tragedy that pains us and sadden us deep inside our hearts,” President Bouteflika said.
Bouteflika told the families that he stays by their sides in all that could ease their grief and pain, praising their courage and stamina.
In the hours after the crash was initially reported, the death toll climbed sharply Wednesday, as emergency and military crews worked at the scene. Video and images from the green field near the airport show rows of covered bodies lined up and a stream of ambulances rolling through nearby streets.
The state news agency says the crashed plane was made by the Russian firm Ilyushin. In recent decades, Algeria has bought military planes from both the U.S. and Russia.