A Russian-made passenger plane used by the Algerian military has crashed near the capital Algiers. More than 250 people on board have died in one of Algeria's worst air disasters.
An Algerian military plane carrying mostly army members and their families crashed on Wednesday shortly after takeoff, killing 247 passengers and 10 crew members.
"This morning at around 8:00 an Ilyushin model military transport plane ... crashed directly after takeoff in an agricultural field that was clear of residents," Major General Boualem Madi told state TV.
The defense ministry said it had opened an investigation into what caused the Russian-made Il-76 military aircraft to crash near an airbase in Boufarik in northern Algeria. The ministry did not say if there were any survivors.
Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika called the crash a "grave, heart-breaking calamity" and announced three days of national mourning.
The plane was on its way to Tindouf on the border of the contested Western Sahara region.
A member of Algeria's ruling FLN party said at least 26 of those killed were members of the Polisario Front, an armed group that has been seeking Western Saharan independence from Morocco.
Algeria is the chief backer of the Polisario Front, which Morocco accuses of setting up military posts in a UN-monitored buffer zone in the Western Sahara near the border with Algeria.
Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita last week said Rabat would take whatever action necessary to defend Western Sahara and blamed Algeria for the multi-year conflict.
Latest air disaster
Algeria has witnessed multiple air accidents in recent years. More than 110 passengers and crew were killed in 2014 when an Air Algerie plane crashed in northern Mali.
That same year, 77 passengers died when an Algerian Air Force transport plane crashed in a mountainous area in eastern Algeria.
The Soviet-designed Il-76 military transport plane crashed in an agricultural zone with no residents
amp, cw/rt (AP, Reuters, AFP)