No fewer than 257 people have been killed after a military plane crashed near the Boufarik airbase outside the Algerian capital, Algiers, Algerian state television reports.
Algeria media claim the ill-fated plane, an Ilyushin Il-76, mostly carried soldiers when it went down shortly after takeoff on Wednesday morning. It was reportedly heading to the western Algerian city of Bechar.
Ennahar TV quoted an Algerian ruling party official as saying that 26 people onboard were members of the Polisario Front, a separatist movement in West Sahara – a territory also claimed by Morocco.
Images posted on an Algerian website showed thick smoke billowing from the site of the crash, as several people rushed to the scene.
This is the worst plane crash in Algeria since 2003 when an Air Algerie jet crashed shortly after takeoff from Tamanrasset, killing 102 people.
Also in 2014, more than 70 off-duty military personnel and their family members were killed when a C-130 plane crashed into the Djebel Fertas mountain shortly before it was to land in the northern city of Constantine.
In November 2012, a twin-turboprop CASA C-295 military transport aircraft, which was carrying a cargo of paper for the printing of banknotes in Algeria, crashed in southern France, killing all six passengers aboard.