The worst week of air disasters in history continued today, with the Air Algerie Flight 5017 the latest plane to crash, apparently killing all 116 people in board. Once again, a civilian airliner has gone down in a warzone.
Flight 5017 went down in northern Mali, where various al-Qaeda-linked factions are known to be active, but conspicuously, there was none of the speculation surrounding previous crashes like MH17 in Ukraine, and even before the plane was found Malian officials were quick to dismiss it as a random lightning strike.
Burkina Faso’s military claims to have found the wreckage, though they insisted they didn’t try to inspect anything because it was night-time. French military forces, which had sent warplanes looking for Flight 5017, say they have no evidence of any find, and are continuing the search.
There is no sign of any shoot-down, and while al-Qaeda factions in northern Mali are known to be keen to shoot down planes, their Libya-looted anti-aircraft missiles are not believed to be able to go high enough to hit a civilian plane flying at normal cruising altitude.
Yet experts are warning that military-grade anti-aircraft missiles are getting easier to come by across the world, and civilian aircraft are vulnerable, particularly when they are flying over warzones.