Nearly 260 people including members of Western Sahara’s Polisario independence movement were killed when an Algerian military plane crashed soon after takeoff, officials said.
TV footage showed crowds gathering around the smoking and flaming wreckage near the Boufarik military base, near the capital Algiers.
A line of white body bags could be seen on the ground next to what media said was a Russian Ilyushin transport plane
A total of 257 people died in the crash, the Algerian defence ministry said.
A member of Algeria’s ruling FLN party told the Ennahar TV station the dead included 26 members of Polisario, an Algerian-backed group fighting for the independence of neighbouring Western Sahara, a territory also claimed by Morocco in a long-running dispute.
Footage from the scene showed thick black smoke coming off the field, as well as ambulances and Red Crescent vehicles arriving at the site.
The tail fin of a plane could be seen above olive trees, with smoke and flames rising from the wreckage.
Mohammed Achour, chief spokesman for the civil protection agency, said the plane was carrying soldiers.
He said some passengers were “extracted with deep burns caused by the fuselage catching fire.”
The cause of the crash remained unclear and an investigation has been opened, the Defence Ministry said in a statement.
It expressed condolences to the families of the victims.