Algeria suffered its deadliest ever air catastrophe Wednesday when a military plane crashed after takeoff, killing 257 people on board, mostly army personnel and their family members, officials said.
An AFP photographer at the scene saw the charred wreckage of the plane after it caught fire in a field near the Boufarik airbase, 30 kilometres (19 miles) south of Algiers.
Hundreds of ambulances and dozens of fire trucks with sirens wailing rushed to the scene of the crash, in an uninhabited area where one person was injured on the ground by debris.
Firefighters extinguished the blaze and security forces set up a cordon to prevent journalists and onlookers from approaching.
The defence ministry said in a statement that 247 passengers and 10 crew were killed without mentioning any survivors. Most of those on board were army members and their families, it said.
There was no immediate word on the cause of the crash. Deputy Defence Minister General Ahmed Gaid Salah visited the site and ordered an investigation, the defence ministry said.
Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika declared three days of national mourning over the crash starting Wednesday.
The veteran leader also ordered that a special prayer be said for the victims after weekly Muslim prayers on Friday, a decree published by state press agency APS said.
The Ilyushin IL-76 transport plane was bound for Tindouf in southwest Algeria near the borders with Morocco and Western Sahara.