Air Algerie Flight AH5017 vanished about 50 minutes after it left Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso on its way to Algiers, Algeria, reported NBC News.. The jet took off at 1:17 a.m. local time (9:17 p.m. ET on Wednesday). Burkina Faso's Transport Minister Jean Bertin Ouedraogo told reporters its pilots had asked to change route about 21 minutes after takeoff after reporting heavy rains. An airport official confirmed to NBC News that wreckage from the plane had been located in neighboring Mali. According to the airport's Facebook page, former Cuban leader Fidel Castro's niece, Mariela, was among the passengers. NBC News could not immediately verify that report. In an earlier statement, Spain-based Swiftair confirmed it operated the McDonnell Douglas MD-83. Swiftair said 110 passengers and six crew were aboard the jet. It had been due to land in the Algerian capital at 5:10 a.m. local time (12:10 a.m. ET), but the flight was missing for hours before the news was made public. Citing the transport minister, The Associated Press reported the flight was carrying 51 French nationals, 27 Burkina Faso nationals, eight Lebanese, six Algerians, five Canadians, two Luxemburg nationals, one Swiss, one Belgian, one Egyptian, one Ukrainian, one Nigerian, one Cameroonian and one Malian. Earlier, an Algerian official told Reuters that the last contact with the jet was over Gao, Mali. An influx of arms and fighters from the 2011 Libyan civil and an attempted coup the following year has left Mali in turmoil. Gao has witnessed recent attacks involving both Tuareg separatist rebels and al Qaeda-linked militants.
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