By Baba Ahmed Associated Press
BAMAKO, Mali — Black boxes from the Air Algerie plane that crashed in northern Mali last week will be transferred to France for analysis, the French embassy in Mali said Sunday, as officials prepared for the process of identifying the remains of the dead.
U.N. peacekeepers located the second black box on Saturday amid the wreckage of the plane that took off from Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, and was heading to Algiers, Algeria when it crashed early Thursday in northern Mali near the border with Burkina Faso.
The crash killed 118 people, 54 of whom were French.
“The two black boxes from the plane will be transferred from Gao to Bamako and then the Malian authorities will give them to French gendarmes experts so they can be taken to Paris,” said Didier Nourrison, a spokesman for the French embassy in Bamako.
French authorities say extreme bad weather was the likely cause of the crash but aren’t ruling out other possibilities, including terrorism. Northern Mali fell under control of rebels including al-Qaida-linked Islamist extremists following a military coup in 2012. Though a French-led military intervention last year scattered the extremists from the north’s cities, the Bamako-based government has warned of their return in recent months.
French President Francois Hollande said Saturday that he wants the remains of all passengers on the Air Algerie plane to be brought to France. He also said data from the two black boxes must be analyzed as quickly as possible.
Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office said it has sent two identification experts to Paris to consult with French authorities on supporting the effort to identify the crash victims. Officials have said the victims included a German family of four.
In Burkina Faso, French forensic experts were expected to arrive Sunday to begin DNA tests on the relatives of victims.
Gen. Gilbert Diendere, a close aide of Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore, said that five or six experts would conduct the tests, the results of which would be used to identify remains recovered from the crash site.
Relatives also visited the crash site for a second day, said the psychologist who is helping to treat them.
The site is being secured by 180 French soldiers and 40 Dutch soldiers from the U.N. peacekeeping mission in addition to Malian soldiers, French army spokesman Lt. Col. Michel Sabatier said.
Associated Press writers Brahima Ouedraogo in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, and Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed to this report.