A Swiftair MD83 plane operating for Air Algerie has disappeared from radar and is thought to have crashed. It was on a route from Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso to Algiers, an almost direct south-north track. Reports are that it has come down in north-east Mali where a civil war is being fought. Conflicting reports are that it has come down in neighboring Niger where there there is also fighting.
The obvious concern is the possibility of it being shot down in light of MH17 however it appears to have been diverted shortly after take-off. Poor visibility is given as a reason although this is also linked to a suggestion the course change was needed to avoid colliding with another plane.
There was poor weather over the west of the Sahel. The likelihood is that this resulted in dust/sand storms which account for the reduced visibility. This would be a possible cause of engine failure.
An aviation expert interviewed on BBC News advised that Swiftair would likely be operating an additional plane to Air Algerie's normal service. That would tie in with the date as it is the end of Ramadan tomorrow and people would be returning to their families to celebrate Eid Al-Fitr.
4:36 AM PT: The London Evening Standard has a source giving information about a possible shoot-down
A senior French official said it was unlikely fighters in Mali had weaponry that could shoot down a plane.http://www.standard.co.uk/...
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the fighters have shoulder-fired weapons which could not hit an aircraft at cruising altitude.