|Air Algerie flight which crashed in eastern Mali killing 116 people|
|Air Algerie flight which crashed in eastern Mali killing 116 people|
How do you solve a problem like Maria?
Putin's daughter said to have fled from Holland with her boyfriend after Dutch fury at Russia's response to MH17 disaster
Maria Putin, the daughter of the Russian president, has reportedly fled Holland after calls for her to be deported following the downing of flight MH17.
The 29-year-old elder daughter of Vladmir Putin faced calls for her to be deported from the country where she is reported to live with her Dutch partner Jorrit Faassen, 34, an executive for a Russian consultancy firm.
He owns a two-storey penthouse apartment at the top of a luxury high-security block in Voorschoten, next to an idyllic canal.
Is this Maria? Some sources in Moscow have expressed doubts about the new images which have emerged of the Putin's mystery daughter, with one saying this glamorous shot of her in a park is in fact a central American model
Maria Putin, the daughter of the Russian president, has reportedly fled Holland after calls for her to be deported following the downing of MH17. Pictured: Putin with his ex-wife and woman believed to be Maria
Unlike the families of Western leaders, the Kremlin refuses point blank to discuss divorced Putin's children or rumours that have linked him to glamorous Olympic gymnast Alina Kabayeva, who is three years older than Maria.
Maria was catapulted into media attention this week because she is said to live in The Hague, capital of the Netherlands which lost 193 of the 298 victims in the Malaysia Airline crash.
Her father has been widely blamed for covertly providing weapons of death to pro-Moscow rebels in eastern Ukraine. These same rebels are blamed by the West for using a Russian-made BUK missile system to shoot down the Boeing 777 en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.
Maria is reported to live with her Dutch partner Jorrit Faassen, 34, an executive for a Russian consultancy firm. He owns a two-storey penthouse apartment (pictured) at the top of a luxury high-security block in Voorschoten, next to an idyllic canal
The mayor of the city of Hilversum, Pieter Broertjes, called for Ms Putin to be deported from the country in a radio interview.
He later apologised for his comments, saying the demands were 'not wise' but 'stemmed from a feeling of helplessness that many will recognise'.
Maria is understood to divide her time between Russia and the Netherlands, with the couple remaining very much within Putin's inner circle.
However, the face of Maria Putin - if it is her in the two pictures widely published today - will be a revelation to most Russians who have never seen their president, who first came to power in the Kremlin on the final day of 1999, properly pictured with his two daughters by ex-wife Lyudmila, except as children.
The face of Maria Putin - if it is her in the two pictures widely published today - will be a revelation to most Russians who have never seen their president, who first came to power in the Kremlin on the final day of 1999, properly pictured with his two daughters by ex-wife Lyudmila, except as children
Vladimir Putin's daughters Ekaterina (left) and Maria (right) during their childhood. Unlike the families of Western leaders, the Kremlin refuses point blank to discuss divorced Putin's children
Some sources in Moscow have expressed doubts about the new images, with one saying the glamorous shot of her in a park is in fact a central American model.
'This is not Putin's daughter, this is a model from Puerto Rico, Wilmadilis 'Uma' Blasini Purez,' echoed a claim on the Ukrainian site which first highlighted the image.
'This is pure Ukrainian propaganda,' said a Moscow picture editor, claiming the picture does not show Putin's daughter and was aimed at harming him in the current conflict.
However, it is hard to check when the Kremlin gives nothing away about the president's private life, except for a few old family snaps that were understood to be her and sister Ekaterina, now 27, who is believed to have wed the son of a South Korean admiral, though her life is shrouded in mystery too.
As pro-Putin Komsomolskaya Pravda said today of his daughters in covering the Dutch call to throw expel Maria: 'There is no single recent official photograph of them.'
Whether the latest images are accurate or not, they will be new to most Russians who are used to Soviet-style secrecy over the spouses and families of their leaders with the notable exception of Mikhail Gorbachev.
In a bid to break the taboo, one Moscow newspaper, Sobesednik, in 2011, resorted to asking a 'medical expert' if he could seek to identify which women in this picture were Maria and Ekaterina by studying their earlier childhood pictures.
Vladimir and Lyudmila Putin with daughters Ekaterina and Maria. His spokesman has admitted that Putin demands a 'closed system' about his daughters
Vladimir and Lyudmila Putin. Little is known about Putin's two daughters, Maria and Yekaterina, and their private lives are protected by a strictly obeyed code of silence among Russia's media
'In adulthood, the facial features change in proportions, and very difficult to predict exactly how,' said the expert dismissing such techniques as 'quackery' and throwing no new light on the matter.
Maria - known as Masha - born in Leningrad, now St Petersburg -on 28 April 1985 and is named after Putin's mother.
Their upbringing and schooling was hugely disrupted by his various jobs, initially as a KGB spy in East Germany.
When they returned to Russia with collapse of the USSR in 1991, he was initially without a job and started to work as a driver, before being plucked to work with his old law professor, Anatoly Sobchak, then mayor of Leningrad.
Putin meets with the Head of the Jewish autonomous region Alexander Vinnikov in the Kremlin in Moscow today
As he became a senior functionary in the St Petersburg government, the girls attended an elite fee-paying German academy in Russia.
Moving to Moscow in 1996, Maria, aged 11, was enrolled by Putin in the Friedrich Haass German International School .
Later when he headed the FSB secret service and went on to become prime minister, he withdrew Maria from the international school, and she - and later her sister - were educated at home evidently for security reasons.
'We get huge homework assignments even now when we do not go to school,' complained Maria in a rare quote.
At the time, in 2000, she wanted to study management and Ekaterina - Katya or Katerina - wanted to be a furniture designer.
Though he forbade photographs, early in his first term they did travel abroad, often with him, and had their own itineraries on the back of his official engagements.
BRITAIN WILL BE HIT HARDEST BY EU SANCTIONS ON RUSSIAN BANKS
Having for months dismissed Western sanctions on Russia as toothless, business leaders here are now afraid that the crash of the Malaysian jetliner will bring about an international isolation that will cause serious and lasting economic damage.
On Tuesday, EU governments targeted more Russian officials with economic sanctions and travel bans and said they would draw up more sweeping measures in coming days if Russia failed to use its influence over the rebels to ensure an independent investigation into the Malaysian plane disaster.
New sanctions would target Russia's high-tech, energy and weapons industries, they said.
But it appears EU sanctions on Russian banks will hit Britain harder than any other country and is likely to cost the City millions of pounds.
The sanction on financial restrictions would ban European investors from Russian banks that are more than 50 percent owned by the state.
This includes Sberbank and VTB, which are listed on the London Stock Exchange.
It is unclear how far the 28-member bloc is willing to go, as it has a lot to lose economically. Defying calls from London and Washington to impose an arms embargo on Russia, France on Tuesday announced it would go ahead with the sale of a warship to Russia.
The EU has also agreed not to look at gas and oil imports which protects the economies of most eastern European states and Germany.
Sometimes they went without him even in the West.
For example, on in October 2001, aged 15 and 14 they went to Dublin, on a 'private visit' chaperoned by ambassador Yevgeny Mikhailov.
They were visiting penpals, it was claimed. The girls went sightseeing in Dublin and called into Leinster House where they had 'a brief hello' with then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.
Silvio Berlusconi was, and is, the only Western leader to have got genuine close to Putin.
While the Italian media reported one visit involving the daughters, the Kremlin said po-faced: 'We only have information about the president's work.'
Both girls studied at St Petersburg State University, Putin's old university.
Katya entered the Oriental studies department; Maria is thought to have studied Biology.
Yet these were rare glimpses of the lives of his daughters.
His spokesman has admitted that Putin demands a 'closed system' about his daughters - even if one of them is living in a NATO country at a time when he and his government are engaging in fiercely anti-Western rhetoric.
'Yes we are a more closed system, but in general everyone knows what kids and family he's got, everyone knows that he split with Lyudmila,' said spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
'Do you know when it is important for a politician to speak about his family? When he goes for elections and people have no idea who this person is. So he's got to use every weapon he can to make people vote, like 'look at me, this is me, this is my family, vote for me'.
'Putin is well known among voters, and those who vote for him don't need to be told anything else about him.
'He is also convinced that every person, whatever he or she does, must have a private territory prohibited to anyone. His family is such territory.'
Peskov in the past has also apparently dismissed reports that Maria lives in Holland, and that her father visited her there.
'This information is not true,' he said of April 2013 reports that Putin might divert from his itinerary and make a stop in Voorschoten, according to Interfax news agency.
The Kremlin refuses point blank to discuss rumours that have linked him to glamorous Olympic gymnast Alina Kabayeva, who is three years older than Maria
Pressed later on Dozhd television on whether Putin's elder daughter, Maria, did indeed live with her Dutch boyfriend, he as quoted saying 'it's fake'
And Putin himself said soon after his split with Lyudmila in June last year: 'Speaking about our children, we really love them, are very proud of them. By the way, they got their education in Russia and live in Russia full-time. '
Putin often becomes prickly when asked about his family, but he revealed with no elaboration: 'Everything's good, both in their personal and professional lives.'
In 2011 banker Matvei Urin and seven other defendants were jailed for beating a Dutch executive - believed to be Faassen - linked by bloggers to a Putin daughter.
Some accounts named Ekaterina rather than Maria.
Urin, 34, and his retinue in November 2010 chased a BMW sedan that did not give way to his two-car cortege on Rublyovskoye Shosse, even though the BMW had priority on the road, stated the prosecutor's office.
The suspects blocked the sedan, dragged the driver out and beat him, inflicting minor injuries, and damaged the BMW, it was claimed.
Flowers laid to show respect for the victims of MH17 Bodies of MH17 victims arrive in Eindhoven, Netherlands
The convoy of funeral hearses carrying the remains of the victims of the MH17 plane crash is driven from the airbase in Eindhoven to Hilversum, The Netherlands
Queen Maxima of the Netherlands (pictured centre alongside her husband King Willem-Alexander) wipes away a tear as the bodies of victims of the MH17 crash are removed from an air force transport plane
At the time, Faassen, 30, was said to be working for a Gazprom affiliate.
The incident appeared to be given undue importance with Moscow police chief Vladimir Kolokoltsev personally involved in the operation to detain Urin.
Last year the same man was sentenced to seven and a half years in jail after it was claimed he was a member of an organized criminal group involved in transaction frauds.
Five banks associated with the banker had their licenses revoked.
A pro-Kremlin news agency wrote at the time: 'The severity of the treatment meted out to Urin served to kindle speculation of the links between Faassen and Putin, but rumours that the Dutchman is married to the president's oldest daughter have never been confirmed.
'Little is known about Putin's two daughters, Maria and Yekaterina, and their private lives are protected by a strictly obeyed code of silence among Russia's media.'
Maria's godfather Sergey Roldugin, artistic director of the St. Petersburg Music House, declined to speak about her. 'He is afraid to talk about these things because he does not know if Mr Putin will be happy about this,' said he aide.
The OSCE says this is the biggest piece of the Malaysia Airlines plane found so far. The fuselage was found in the forest with some of the windows still intact
A piece of wreckage from MH17 found at the crash site in Petropavlivka, Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine. More large parts of the downed airliner were discovered today as Dutch investigators took charge of the crash site
German documentary maker Hubert Seipel was given unprecedented access to Putin over a year for his film 'Ich, Putin' but when asked if he had ever seen has family, said: 'It's a bit of a tricky question.
'He is very sensitive, and I promised him not to expose very much about that.'
About the family, he added: 'They are existing. They are phoning. They are available.'.
Meanwhile today there were new claims today by Ukraine of shelling of its border areas from Russian territory , backing US fears of a 'clear escalation' in the conflict as the MH17 crash site probe continues.
Pro-Western Ukrainian forces raised their flag over the city of Lysychansk, with a 105,000 population, overnight after grabbing it back from rebel control.
But military spokesman Vladyslav Seleznyov said army positions 'were shelled twice from the Russian Federation's territory' as they were at the border town of Marynivka and at Lugansk airport.
' Militants shelled these positions from Grad multiple-launch rocket systems.'
The reports follow US state department claims to have 'intelligence information' that Russian forces were firing artillery from inside Russia on Ukrainian troops, and that Vladimir Putin's forces are planning to 'deliver heavier and more powerful multiple rocket launchers' to separatist forces.
A pro-Russian militant holds up a stuffed animal as others look on at the site of the MH17 crash. 298 people were killed when the plane was apparently blasted out the sky by a surface to air missile
: A child's shoe is seen among the wreckage of MH17. A week after the disaster took place, the crash site is still littered with debris and, in some cases, body parts
'They're firing artillery from within Russia to attack Ukrainian military,' said a spokeswoman.
The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey warned Moscow is fanning nationalist sentiments that could spread across Europe.
'If I have a fear about this, it's that Putin may actually light a fire that he loses control of,' he said.
'There's a rising tide of nationalism in Europe right now that's been created in many ways by these Russian activities that I find to be quite dangerous.'
Concern remains high in the West over the state of the crash site, where human remains are still strewn eight days after the Boeing 777 was shot down.
'On the site it is still clear that nothing is happening without the approval of the armed rebels who brought the plane down in the first place,' said Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
'There has still not been anything like a thorough professional search of the area where the plane went down, and there can't be while the site is controlled by armed men with vested interest in the outcome of the investigation.'
International experts in Kharkiv 'have processed completely contents of three refrigerator vans,' said Ukrainian State Emergency Service Chief Serhiy Bochkovsky.
'Experts have started work on the last, fourth van.'
So far experts 'have processed 182 bags with bodies and body fragments of those killed in the Boeing-777 crash,' he said.
Four planes with 114 coffins on board were sent to the Netherlands on July 22 and July 23, he said.
Experts will be able to complete the work on preparing and sending bodies not later than Friday evening, he said.
'We will hope and will do everything for this.'
CIA station chief expelled in Berlin spy row: Germany orders expulsion in response to two cases of alleged spying
Germany has ratcheted up its row with America over CIA spying in the country with the immediate expulsion of the agency’s Berlin chief.
The dramatic rebuke to Washington comes after Germany’s intelligence agency, the BND, uncovered two cases of alleged American spying in a week.
The U.S. official was told to leave the country in a public signal of Angela Merkel’s fury over US spying on Germany which in the past has included repeated snooping on her own mobile phone.
A NATO ally expelling the spy chief of a friendly country is an extraordinary move but Mrs. Merkel has public opinion behind her. New polls show that many Germans want increased independence from America because of its snooping programme.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for 'greater trust' between the U.S. and her nation - code for demanding Americans stop spying on the NATO ally
'The representative of the US intelligence services at the United States embassy has been asked to leave Germany,' a German government spokesman said.
'The request occurred against the backdrop of the ongoing investigation by federal prosecutors as well as the questions that were posed months ago about the activities of US intelligence agencies in Germany.'
The move came a day after Berlin police searched the home and office of a German military intelligence official alleged to have been spying for America. The suspect is a foreign country specialist in the German defence ministry’s political department and has not yet been charged.
German military intelligence alerted prosecutors after the suspect was found to have 'met suspiciously often with US contacts', according to Spiegel Magazine.
A week ago a German intelligence agent was arrested after handing over German secrets to the US in exchange for cash.The 31-year-old employee of the BND stands accused of selling 218 top secret German intelligence documents he downloaded on to a USB stick for 25,000 pounds.
Last year documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the former NSA employee, revealed that the agency had been monitoring Mrs Merkel’s mobile phone.
The unnamed intelligence official works at the U.S. embassy in Berlin (pictured). Germany has asked the official leave the country
Angela Merkel has ordered its intelligence service to spy on the U.S and Britain for the first time since 1945, according to reports.
The move will see Germany’s equivalent of MI5, the BND, monitor British and American spying operations on its soil.
The move is thought to be a response to the discovery earlier this month of two alleged U.S. spies in Germany and revelations that the U.S. National Security Agency was conducting mass surveillance of German citizens and eavesdropping on Merkel's cellphone.
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On the look-out: Angela Merkel has ordered its intelligence service to spy on the U.S and Britain for the first time since 1945
After 1945 West Germany had a policy of turning a blind eye to the spying activities of America and Britain. Pictured is the United States embassy (right) in front of the Reichstag building in Berlin
A government source told Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper: ‘We need to send a strong signal.’
After the defeat of the Nazis and the end of World War II in 1945, the new authorities of West Germany adopted a policy of turning a blind eye to the intelligence activities of some of the victors, namely the U.S., Britain and France.
In response to the discovery of the U.S spies Merkel demanded the departure of the CIA station chief in Berlin.
This week President Barack Obama dispatched two senior advisers to Germany in an apparent effort to soothe tensions following the new allegations.
The White House says chief of staff Denis McDonough and counterterrorism adviser Lisa Monaco are in Berlin for meetings with their German counterparts. The White House says intelligence and security matters were in the agenda.
Spying game: The CIA's headquarters in Langley, Virginia, shown during the BBC's Spies R Us series
This week President Barack Obama dispatched two senior advisers to Germany in an apparent effort to soothe tensions following new spying allegations
The White House says the U.S. and Germany agreed to set up a dialogue to address intelligence concerns on both sides.
'Trust can only be restored through talks and certain agreements,' Merkel said. 'We will seek out such talks, though I can't announce anything concrete right now.'
Merkel, who grew up in communist East Germany where state surveillance was a fact of life, said her administration and that of U.S. President Barack Obama have 'different positions on what's needed to guarantee security and at the same time protect personal data.'
While the Obama administration has remained largely silent, U.S. commentators have defended the need to spy on even close allies such as Germany, citing the country's close links to Russia and fact that several members of the 9/11 terror cell lived in Hamburg before the attacks.
Despite the spy row, Merkel insisted that Germany and the U.S. remain close partners 'and nothing about this will change.'
Merkel dismissed the idea that her government would allow Edward Snowden, the NSA contractor whose leaks sparked a worldwide flurry of reports on U.S. spy activity, to come to Germany.
'We learned things (from him) that we didn't know before, and that's always interesting,' she said of Snowden's revelations, but added, 'granting asylum isn't an act of gratitude.'
Earlier a top White House official pledged that the CIA will no longer use vaccination programs as cover for spying operations. The agency used the ruse in targeting Osama bin Laden before the U.S. raid that killed him in 2011.
Lisa Monaco, President Obama's top counterterrorism adviser, wrote to the deans of 13 prominent public health schools, saying the CIA has agreed it would no longer use vaccination programs or workers for intelligence purposes. The agency also agreed to not use genetic materials obtained through such programs.
The first images have emerged of the crash site and victims of an Air Algerie flight which crashed in eastern Mali killing all 116 people on board.
Air navigation services lost track of the plane around 50 minutes after it took off from Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso en route to the Algerian capital Algiers.
Images have now emerged showing bodies and wreckage from the Swiftair MD83 plane scattered near remote Saharan village of Boulikessi on the Mali-Burkina Faso border, confirming the world's third major aviation disaster in a week.
It was this afternoon revealed that the plane in question had been described as 'old and rotten' and 'barely able to reach the airport terminals' in a student's YouTube rant posted online two weeks ago.
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Crash site: Images have emerged showing wreckage from the Swiftair MD83 plane scattered near remote Saharan village of Boulikessi on the Mali-Burkina Faso border
Debris: Parts of the Swiftair MD83 plane are seen scattered around the crash site. Air navigation services lost track of the plane around 50 minutes after it took off from Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso en route to Algiers
Blast: The first images of the Air Algerie crash site in Mali show stark terrain littered with bits of a plane that appears to have exploded on impact
Wreckage: A piece of the doomed plane is seen in the Sahara desert. The aircraft in question was described as 'old and rotten' and 'barely able to reach the airport terminals' in a YouTube rant posted two weeks ago
Destroyed: Images of the crash site show wreckage scattered along a stretch of the Mali-Burkina Faso border
This morning images of the crash site emerged, showing wreckage scattered along a stretch of the Mali-Burkina Faso border.
The news comes as it was revealed that a French-Algerian student raised serious concerns about the 18-year-old McDonnell Douglas MD-83 aircraft in a YouTube rant posted online two weeks ago.
Identifying himself only by the name Fares, a video posted online on July 9 shows the student saying he had flown on the doomed plane on a 1,500 mile journey from Paris to the Algerian town of Batna. 'Air Algerie makes us travel in a plane without a logo, the crew speaks Spanish and they tell us nothing... Please Air Algerie, do your job. We pay a fortune for your tickets, he added.
Despite claims the plane was obsolete and should no longer be carrying members of the public, both Swiftair and Air Algerie have insisted that the plane was in ‘good condition’ and flightworthy.
But mechanical failure will be high on the list of probable causes of the accident, which has been described as a ‘national tragedy’ by French president, Francois Hollande.
Tragic: Four members of the Daher family were on board the doomed flight, including mother Randa (far left), Ali, 17, (back right) and Salah, 15 (front right). Her five-year-old daughter Shaima was also on the plane (pictured left in the arms of her father, who was not on board, and alone in the right-hand image)
Upset: This image shows members of the French Ouedraogo family who died on board the Air Algerie flight. All those with their faces unblurred are believed to have been killed. From left to right, they are Samson, mother Maryse, Noa, father Seydou, and their young daughter Elora
Grieving: Amadou Ouedraogo, from Nantes in France, poses with pictures of his brother, Seydou and his family who were aboard the Air Algerie plane that crashed in Mali yesterday
News of the student's YouTube rant came as the first pictures of the ‘disintegrated wreckage’ of Flight AH5017 were released and details and photographs of those on the flight emerged.
Four members of the Daher family - mother Randa, her sons Ali, 17 and Salah, 15, and her young daughter Shaima, five - were on board the Swiftair MD83 plane when it came down.
They are among up to 20 Lebanese feared dead in the Air Algerie crash in eastern Mali.
The country's foreign ministry said its embassy in Abidjan, Ivory Coast estimated the number of Lebanese citizens on the flight was at least 20, some of whom may have dual nationality.
Officially the nationality breakdown of the 110 passengers stands at eight Lebanese, 51 French, 27 Burkina Faso nationals, six Algerians, five Canadians, four Germans, two Luxemburg nationals, one Swiss, one Belgian, one Egyptian, one Ukrainian, one Nigerian, one Cameroonian and one Malian.
The six crew members are Spanish, according to the Spanish pilots' union.
'We don't know anything yet. We have just heard from the news that the plane went missing,' said Amina Daher, Randa's sister-in law. She also showed journalists photographs of the family.
The family are understood to have lived in Burkina Faso and were travelling via Algiers to Beirut, where Ms Daher and her three children hoped to visit family and celebrate the Islamic religious festival Eid El-Fit.
Victims: Mohamed Akhdar is seen after graduating from university in Lebanon (left). The image on the right shows Bilal Deheini, 43. Both of the Lebanese nationals were on board the doomed Air Algerie flight
Family: Intissar Deheini holds a picture of her brother Bilal and one of his children. Bilal is believed to have been killed in the Air Algerie plane crash in Mali
Tears: Relatives of the Deheini family who were aboard the Air Algerie plane when it crashed over Mali, mourn at the family's home in the village of al-Kharayeb in south Lebanon this morning
Waiting for news: Relatives of the passengers killed in the crash of the Air Algeria flight AH017 attend a crisis meeting with Burkina Faso's Prime Minister at Ouagadougou airport
Long wait: A day after the Air Algerie plane crashed, relatives of passengers attend a crisis meeting with Burkina Faso's Prime Minister at Ouagadougou airport
Ten members of a single French family were also killed in the disaster.
Bernard Reynaud, from Lorette, in the Loire department of France, died alongside his ex-wife, Michelle, who lived in Lyon.
With them were their sons Franck and Eric, and their respective wives Laure and Estelle. The Reynaud’s grandchildren, Nathan, Julie, Alexi and Zoe were also killed.
All were on holiday in Burkina Faso, where they had friends in Ouagadougou – the country’s capital from where they took off on Thursday morning.
Also aboard were five people originally from a single family from the central Creuse department, including Bertrand Gineste, a 55-year-old chemist from the town of Gueret.
Mr Gineste and his wife Veronique, and their three children, aged between 14 and 19, were all members of a development organisation in Burkina Faso.
Jean-Jacques Dupre, a friend of Mr Reynaud’s, said: ‘It’s difficult, very difficult, he was an exceptional friend. We worked together for 20 years, and we’ve been friends for 40 years, we studied together’.
Mr Gineste employed 23 people at his Marche pharmacy in Gueret, and was also treasurer of a group aiding Gueret-Zitenga, a department in Burkina twinned with the French town.
Mobbed: General Gilbert Diendere - Chief of Staff to Burkina Faso's president - speaks to the media about the deadly crash
Statement: This morning French president Francois Hollande announced that one of the aircraft's two black boxes has been found in the wreckage. It is now being taken to the northern Mali city of Gao, he said
Task: French officials have dispatched a military unit to secure the crash site, which is in territory dominated by al-Qaeda linked Islamist militants and Tuareg separatists, Francois Hollande said this morning
Air navigation services lost track of the Air Algerie-operated Swiftair MD-83 around 50 minutes into the flight after the crew reportedly asked to change course over fears it was flying into a storm.
Shepherds working in the area claim to have seen the plane burst into flames after it was struck by lightning, adding that it broke up into hundreds of pieces on impact with the ground.
This morning French president Francois Hollande confirmed wreckage of the plane was found near the remote Saharan village of Boulikessi on the Mali-Burkina Faso border.
Speaking after a crisis meeting, Hollande also announced that one of the aircraft's two black boxes has been found in the wreckage. It is now being taken to the northern Mali city of Gao.
Mr Hollande has said that France will spare no efforts to uncover the cause of the crash - the third major plane disaster around the world within a week.
'There are hypotheses, notably weather-related, but we don't rule out anything because we want to know what happened,' the French president said.
'What we know is that the debris is concentrated in a limited space, but it is too soon to draw conclusions.'
Interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve added: 'Terrorist groups are in the zone. ... We know these groups are hostile to Western interests.'
Vanished: Air navigation services lost track of a Swiftair MD-83 passenger plane (like one above) carrying 110 passengers and six crew members after it disappeared off the radar on its way to Algiers
Information: An arrivals screen at Houari Boumediene airport near Algiers showed doomed Air Algerie flight 5017 as 'late' as news broke of the crash yesterday afternoon
A French Reaper drone based in Niger spotted the wreckage, French Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier told France-Info radio this morning.
Two helicopter teams also overflew, noting that the wreckage was in a concentrated area. A column of soldiers in some 30 vehicles were dispatched to the site, he said.
A statement from Hollande's office this morning added that the aircraft had been clearly identified 'despite its state of disintegration.'
The plane, which is operated by Air Algerie, was last picked up on radar at 1.55am GMT en route from Burkina Faso to Algiers.
It should have landed in the Algerian capital around three hours later, but didn't arrive.
French fighter jets, U.N. peacekeepers and others hunted for the wreckage of the MD-83 in the remote region, where scattered separatist violence may hamper an eventual investigation into what happened.
French officials have dispatched a military unit to secure the site, according to a message posted on the website of President Francois Hollande this morning.
The plane was found about 31 miles from the border of Burkina Faso near the village of Boulikessi in Mali, a Burkina Faso presidential aide said, adding that it appears to have broken up on impact.
'We sent men, with the agreement of the Mali government, to the site, and they found the wreckage of the plane with the help of the inhabitants of the area,' said General Gilbert Diendere.
General Diendere is a close aide to Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore and head of the crisis committee set up to investigate the flight.
'They found human remains and the wreckage of the plane totally burnt and scattered,' he added.
Fateful path: Contact was lost with flight AH 5017 while it was still in Malian air space approaching the border with Algeria after taking off from Ouagadougou, the capital of the west African nation of Burkina Faso
The list of passengers on the plane includes 51 French, 27 Burkina Faso nationals, eight Lebanese, six Algerians, five Canadians, four Germans, two Luxemburg nationals, one Swiss, one Belgian, one Egyptian, one Ukrainian, one Nigerian, one Cameroonian and one Malian.
The six crew members are Spanish, according to the Spanish pilots' union.
The crash comes after a treacherous week for the aviation industry in which 298 people were killed when Air Malysia flight MH17 plane was shot down over Ukraine and 48 people died in a crash in Taiwan.
Airlines have also cancelled flights into Tel Aviv due to the conflict in Gaza.
The flight path of AH5017 from Ouagadougou, the capital of the west African nation of Burkina Faso, to Algiers was not immediately clear.
However, Burkina Faso Transport Minister Jean Bertin Ouedragor said the flight had been asked to change route because of a storm around 30 minutes after taking off.
Lost: A map on Ouagadougou airport's website reportedly shows AH5017's last contact while over Mali
PRODUCTION OF MD-80 AIRCRAFT MODELS ENDED 15 YEARS AGO
Spanish airline company Swiftair has a relatively clean safety record, with five accidents since 1977, two of which caused a total of eight deaths, according to the Washington-based Flight Safety Foundation.
The MD-83 aircraft which crashed in north Africa is believed to be around 18 years old and one of four owned by the company.
The model is part of a series of jets built since the early 1980s by McDonnell Douglas, a U.S. plane maker now owned by Boeing.
The jet's two engines are made by Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies.
McDonnell Douglas stopped producing the MD-80 airliner family in 1999, but it remains in widespread use.
According to British consultancy Flightglobal Ascend, there are 482 MD-80 aircraft in operation, many of them in the United States.
A source from Air Algerie told the AFP news agency said contact was lost while it was still in Malian air space approaching the border with Algeria.
The source said: 'The plane was not far from the Algerian frontier when the crew was asked to make a detour because of poor visibility and to prevent the risk of collision with another aircraft on the Algiers-Bamako route.
'Contact was lost after the change of course.'
A diplomat in the Malian capital Bamako also confirmed said that the north of the country - which lies on the plane's likely flight path - was struck by a powerful sandstorm overnight.
The vast deserts and mountains of northern Mali fell under control of ethnic Tuareg separatists and then al-Qaida-linked Islamic extremists after a military coup in 2012.
The French-led intervention scattered the extremists, but the Tuaregs have pushed back against the authority of the Bamako-based government.
Meanwhile, the threat from Islamic militants hasn't disappeared, and France is giving its troops a new and larger anti-terrorist mission across the region.
A senior French official said it seems unlikely that fighters in Mali had the kind of weaponry that could shoot down a jetliner at cruising altitude.
While al-Qaida's North Africa branch is believed to have an SA-7 surface-to-air missile, also known as MANPADS, most airliners would normally fly out of range of these shoulder-fired weapons.
They can hit targets flying up to roughly 12,000-15,000 feet.
Danger zones: This graphic shows the areas which U.S. airlines have been banned from flying from or warned to avoid by the Federal Aviation Administration because of conflicts
Waiting for information: Journalists gather outside the Swiftair offices in Madrid after one of its planes operated by Air Algerie disappeared over Malian airspace in north Africa
The MD-83 is part of a series of long-range jets built since the early 1980s by McDonnell Douglas, a U.S. plane maker now owned by Boeing.
'Boeing is aware of the report (on the missing aircraft). We are awaiting additional information,' a spokesman for the planemaker said.
The crash comes as a recovery operation got underway in Taiwan to remove plane seats and fuselage from homes after Wednesday's plane crash there killed 48 people.
Yesterday the airline announced that stormy weather trailing behind a typhoon was the likely cause of the crash which also injured ten people on the plane and five on the ground.
The ATR-72 operated by Taiwan's TransAsia Airways was carrying 58 passengers and crew when it crashed while trying to land in the Penghu island chain in the Taiwan Strait between Taiwan and China.
Meanwhile, an international investigation has been launched after Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down by a surface-to-air missile over Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board.
Concerns were first raised about the plane when it disappeared from radar screens while passing over the city of Donetsk last Thursday.
The plane was travelling at 33,000 feet on a pre-determined flight path when it suddenly vanished from trackers, immediately notifying air traffic controllers of the prospect that the plane had either crashed or made an emergency landing.
An Air Algerie office in Paris. The company initiated an 'emergency plan' in the search for flight AH5017
Flight radars generally monitor moving objects only, so if an aircraft disappears from the screens it either means the plane has become stationary or there has been a fault with the tracking system.
Tragically in the case of MH17 the former was true - but it wasn’t until body parts and plane wreckage were spotted scattered over an eight square-mile area in eastern Ukraine that a crash could be officially confirmed.
In the case of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, the latter was the true, where it is believed the radar transponder system was deliberately turned off by someone on board.
That plane is believed to have crashed in the Indian Ocean, killing all 239 people on board, but the wreckage has never been found and the cause of the disaster is unknown.
One of Algeria's worst air disasters occurred in February this year, when a C-130 military aircraft carrying 78 people crashed in the mountainous northeast, killing more than 70 people.
Tamanrasset in the deep south was the site of the country's worst ever civilian air disaster, in March 2003.
In that accident, all but one of 103 people on board were killed when an Air Algerie passenger plane crashed on takeoff after one of its engines caught fire.
The sole survivor, a young Algerian soldier, was critically injured.
WILL YOU GET ON A PLANE AGAIN? AVIATION FATALITIES SOAR 300% - BUT EXPERTS INSIST 2014 IS STILL ONE OF THE SAFEST YEARS IN HISTORY
In a week that has seen three major air disasters, just days before the busiest weekend for airports over the summer holidays, questions are being raised about the safety of air travel.
After a Swiftair flight crashed today, killing 119 people on board, a TransAsia Airways jet fell from the sky yesterday with 47 dead, and the Malaysia Airlines jet that was shot down over Ukraine last week with 298 fatalities, travellers are asking whether it is safe to fly.
Aviation experts claim 2014 is one of the safest years in air transport history in terms of the number of crashes.
However, figures reveal fatalities from air disasters have soared by 300 per cent from last year, including the three major plane crashes in the past week.
Plunged from the sky: Rescue workers and firefighters search through the wreckage where TransAsia Airways flight GE222 crashed in Taiwan, killing 48 people
There have been 763 passengers and crew killed in plane disasters so far this year - 498 higher than the 265 people that died in 2013.
The figure is 396 higher than the 10-year average to July of 376.
It also makes July the fifth worst month in aviation history in terms of aviation disaster fatalities.
However, air travel experts are urging holidaymakers that it is still safe to fly.
Harro Ranter, president of the Aviation Safety Network, described 2014 as ‘among the safest years in modern aviation history – since 1946’.
He added the number of fatal plane accidents this year – including today’s Algerian jet – is 12 – five below the ten-year average to July 24.
The 12 incidents in the past seven months include the TransAsia aircraft that crashed while trying to land on an island off Taiwan, killing all 47 people on board.
The figure is down from the 10-year average of 17 fatal crashes.
Mr Ranter said: ‘The recent accidents do not suggest that there is a specific common underlying safety issue.’
However, figures by the network, which tracks crashes and fatalities worldwide, reveal the number of people killed in air travel disasters has increased significantly already this year, due to the two Malaysia Airlines disasters.
The total number of passengers and crew killed on board the missing MH370, and on board the MH17 flight which was shot down while flying over Ukraine is 517.
Ranter told www.thestar.com: ‘It has been an exceptional year because of these two high-profile accidents, which really mark the safety profile of this year.
‘[The number of fatal crashes is] quite significantly below the 10-year average, although the number of fatalities is markedly higher because of these two high-profile accidents.’
According to International Air Transport Association, which represents 240 of the world’s airlines, more than three billion people flew safely on 36.4 million flights last year.