An Algerian military plane has crashed near Algiers killing all 257 people on board.
The crash is the North African nation’s worst aviation disaster and happened shortly after the aircraft took off from Boufarik military airport, west of the capital, Wednesday en-route to Bechar and Tindouf on the Algiers-Morocco border.
Officials said most of the dead, which included 10 crew, were army personnel and their families.
But the BBC reported about 30 members of a separatist movement in Western Sahara, including women and children, were among the passengers.
The plane was an Ilyushin Il-76 and media reports said the cause of the crash remained unclear.
A statement by the Algerian government said: “In this painful ordeal, the government members offer their deepest condolences to the families of the victims.”
Images posted on Algerian television showed smoke billowing from the burning plane and then rescue personnel swarming around the wreckage.
A farmer injured when the plane crashed into his field told Algerian television: “I could see as soon as the plane took off it started falling.
“The plane flew over my head and came really close. The wing clipped me as I was jumping to get out of the way and then it burst into flames. I survived by the grace of God.’’
Another man who heard the explosion and drove to the site tried to put out the fire and reach victims.
We saw bodies … it was a catastrophe,” he said.
“We were afraid the plane would explode. We covered some bodies and put out some fires.”
This is the latest of several Algerian crashes in recent years.
A Hercules C-130 carrying air force personnel and their families crashed in the country’s east in 2014, killing 77 people.
Another 116 people died that year when an Air Algerie flight crashed in Mali, completely destroying the MD-83 jet as it traveled from Burkina Faso to Algiers.