DAKAR - Four countries are now taking part in the search for the Air Algerie plane which went missing over northern Mali, an air traffic control official in Dakar said on Thursday.
"We cannot as yet say exactly what happened because the search operation is still going on," the official from the Agency for Aerial Navigation Safety in Africa and Madagascar (ASECNA) said.
She confirmed that Mali, Algeria, Niger and France were coordinating their efforts under the umbrella of the French-led military intervention in Mali, Operation Serval.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Thursday that the McDonnell Douglas MD-83 carrying 110 passengers amd eight crew "probably crashed" in Mali, with several sources pointing to the Gao region in the north-east of the country.
"Even though the aircraft was above Mali it was in airspace managed by the control centre in Niamey in Niger," the ASECNA official told AFP.
She would not be drawn on what information it had on the aircraft.
"We are still putting together the flight plans, voice recordings, radar contacts and the communication between the pilots and the air controllers," she added.
"It is all of this that will help us refine our efforts to locate it." She did not rule out the possibility weather conditions could have played a part. "It is possible. Weather phenomena are still dangerous for aircraft. There were a number of storms in the area but we cannot confirm they had any effect," she said.
ASECNA covers 17 African countries, and France is also a member.
Air Algerie said on Thursday that it lost contact with the aircraft flying from Ouagadougou to Algiers 50 minutes after it took off from the Burkina Faso capital.
An airline source in Algiers told AFP that the plane was over northern Mali when contact was lost.
According to Reuters, the passenger list of the missing flight included 50 French citizens, the airline's representative in Burkina Faso told a news conference in Ouagadougou. Burkina Faso Transport Minister Jean Bertin Ouedrago said the Air Algerie flight that was en route from Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso to Algiers had asked to change route at 0138 GMT because of a storm in the area.