Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has commiserated with President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and the people of Algeria on Wednesday’s military plane crash near the Boufarik military airport in Algiers.
Reports said 257 people, including Polisario officials, Fighting for Western Sahara independence, died in the crash.
According to a statement by presidential media adviser, Femi Adesina, Buhari extended deepest condolences to the families and friends of the bereaved Algerians and other nationals, who are in sorrow because of the tragedy.
“President Buhari assures President Bouteflika and those who lost their loved ones of the sympathy of all Nigerians in their moment of grief.
“The President affirms that the thoughts and prayers of all Nigerians are with all who mourn, even as he prays that God Almighty will comfort the bereaved, the nation of Algeria and grant eternal rest to the souls of those who died in the crash”, Femi Adesina said.
Officials said no fewer than 257 people including members of Western Sahara’s Polisario independence movement were killed when the military plane crashed in a field outside Algeria’s capital on Wednesday.
Television footage showed crowds gathering around the smoking and flaming wreckage near Boufarik airport southwest of 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 member of Algeria’s ruling FLN party told the private 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.
The plane was heading to Tindouf, an area on Algeria’s border with Western Sahara, but crashed on the airport’s perimeter, Algeria’s defense ministry said.
Tindouf is home to thousands of refugees from the Western Sahara standoff, many of them Polisario supporters.
UN attempts to broker a settlement have failed for years in the vast desert area, which has contested since 1975 when Spanish colonial powers left.
Morocco claimed the territory while Polisario established its self-declared Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic there.
Algeria’s defence ministry issued a statement expressing condolences to families of the victims.
In February 2014, an Algerian Air Force Lockheed C-130 Hercules crashed in a mountainous area in eastern Algeria killing 77 passengers and leaving one survivor.