By Abdel Razek Abdallah
ALGIERS (AA) – At least 30 people from the Western Sahara region were aboard an Algerian military plane that crashed on Wednesday, according to the Polisario Front.
“Among the passengers were 30 Sahrawi medical patients and their families — men, women and children — who had just received treatment in Algerian hospitals,” the Front said in a statement carried by the Sahara Press Service.
The Polisario Front, which has declared a weeklong mourning period for the crash victims, also promised to “follow up on and determine the final status of victims and take the necessary measures”.
Earlier Wednesday, at least 257 people were killed when an Algerian military plane crashed near capital Algiers, according to the Algerian Defense Ministry.
In a statement, the ministry said that the ill-fated aircraft had been heading for Algeria’s southwestern town of Bechar when it went down.
Most of the victims were reportedly Algerian military personnel and their families.
It remains unclear until now whether any passengers survived the crash.
Since the early 1970s, the Polisario Front, a self-proclaimed national liberation movement backed by Algeria, has demanded an independent state in Western Sahara, a large territory in southern Morocco.
Following years of conflict, the two parties signed a UN-backed ceasefire in 1991, although both sides still lay claim to the region.
Morocco recently accused the Polisario of bringing military supplies from Algeria to areas east of a buffer zone that lies along the disputed region’s eastern border.