Update: 54 French nationals were on board the plane, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Friday afternoon.
But “no hypothesis can be ruled out as long as the inquiry has not come up with results”, he added.
The hypotheses suggested are:
- The weather - the plane changed course because of poor visibility caused by a storm and is reported to have broken up on hitting the ground;
- Technical problems – at 18 years old the McDonnell 83 was relatively old but aviation officials say it was inspected two or three days ago and was in good condition;
- A missile – Armed Islamists are active in the area but are not believed to have surface-to-air missiles.
The wreckage was found at Gossi in northern Mali near the frontier with Burkina Faso
France’s Defence Ministry on Friday said that it was located by a French drone but General Gilbert Diendéré, who is in charge of Burkina Faso’s search efforts, told RFI that Burkinabé helicopters found it and the French military later confirmed the discovery.
France has two Reaper drones, bought from the US in 2013, based in Niger and a number of Mirage 2000 jets in Niger and Chad as part of its Barkhane operation in the Sahel.
A detachment of French troops travelled to Gossi from northern Mali’s largest town, Gao, to secure the zone, collect evidence and pick up the bodies of the victims.
As well as the 50 French nationals 24 Burkinabés were among the 116 people on board.
President Blaise Compaoré has declared 48 hours of national mourning and a crisis cell has been set up in Ouagadougou.
Some of the families of victims at the city’s airport were critical of the lack of information from Air Algérie, which had no representative present on Thursday.
“Unfortunately, we’ve learned very little from the company, which has abandoned us,” commented one of them, Justin, to RFI.