257 dead on board a military aircraft

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A military plane carrying soldiers and their families crashed shortly after takeoff in a farm field in northern Algeria, killing 257 people in what appeared to be the worst plane crash in the history of the North African country.

The Algerian Defense Ministry said among the dead were 247 passengers and 10 crew members.

The ministry said the cause of the crash was not clear, and an investigation had been opened.

The ministry said that most of the victims were soldiers and their relatives, and the bodies of the victims were taken to the Algerian Army Central Hospital in the town of Ain al-Naja for identification.

Local media reported that the plane crashed soon after take-off. And emergency services were available in the area near the Boufarik military base after the crash. Footage from the scene showed thick black smoke rising from the square, in addition to ambulances and Red Crescent vehicles arriving at the site.

This was the first Algerian military plane crash since February 2014, when a US-made C-130 Hercules turboprop jet collided with a mountain, killing at least 76 people and leaving only one survivor.

In 2003, 10 people were killed when an Algerian Air Force C-130 plane crashed after an engine caught fire shortly after takeoff from the air base near Boufarik, according to the Aviation Safety Network database.

The deadliest accident in the past on Algerian soil occurred in 2003, when 102 people were killed after a civilian airliner crashed at the end of a runway in Tamanrasset. There was one survivor in that accident.

The plane had just taken off from Boufarik, about 30 km southwest of the capital, Algiers, bound for a military base in Bechar, southwest of Algeria, according to Farouk Ashour, a spokesman for the Civil Protection Service. It was scheduled to stop at Tindouf in southern Algeria, home to many refugees from neighboring Western Sahara, a disputed area annexed by Morocco.

Ashur said that the Soviet Il-76 military transport plane crashed in an agricultural area without residents.

The Il-76 has been in production since the 1970s and has a generally good safety record. It is widely used for both commercial shipping and military transportation. The Algerian army operates several aircraft.

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