In a telegram sent to the Archbishop of Algiers, Pope Francis expresses solidarity and sorrow for the deaths of 257 people, mostly soldiers and their families. Also 26 members of the Polisario Front died in the disaster. The Algerian government has opened an investigation.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Pope Francis expressed his "closeness" to the "Algerian nation" struck "by mourning" following yesterday morning’s plane crash which claimed 257 lives.
In a telegram sent last night by Card. Pietro Parolin to Msgr. Paul Lafarge, Archbishop of Algiers, the Pope "joins in prayer to the suffering of the families of all the people affected by this drama, as well as to the pain of the whole Algerian people".
Asking "the Lord to welcome into His peace those who have died and to comfort those who are seriously wounded", the Pope "implores divine assistance for those who are in charge of caring for them".
The incident involved a military aircraft, which crashed immediately after takeoff from the airport of Boufakir, near Algiers. The majority of victims are military and members of their families.
The government has declared three days of mourning for this which is considered the worst air disaster in the country. An investigation into the causes of the accident was also opened.
The Polisario Front declared that among the dead there were 30 people from Western Sahara, including women and children. The Front - supported by Algeria - is a group that fights for the independence of Western Sahara, an area disputed with Morocco. According to official sources, among the killed were 26 members of the Polisario.
The plane, an Ilyushin Il-76, was to arrive at Bechar and Tindouf, in the south-east of the country. The Tindouf region, which borders Western Sahara, and which hosts many refugee camps and serves as a base for the Polisario Front.
Just yesterday, the government gave its approval for the beatification ceremony of the martyrs of Algeria, including the seven Trappist monks of Tibhirine, to be held in Oran. There are rumors that Pope Francis himself could go and preside over the ceremony.