NOEL KING, HOST:
Algeria's defense ministry says 257 people are dead following a military plane crash. The plane was on its way to southwestern Algeria when it plowed into a field. Redha Menassel is a reporter for Algerian National Radio, and he joins me now from Algiers. Good morning, Redha.
REDHA MENASSEL: Hello.
KING: So when did this crash happen?
MENASSEL: Well, the crash which occurred at 8 o'clock this morning, just a few minutes after the aircraft took off, reportedly claims 257 lives, including 10 crew members. Well, that's according to the latest and temporary assessment by the Department of National Defense.
KING: Redha, it was a military flight. Who was on board the plane? Was it soldiers?
MENASSEL: Yes, it was a military flight. The aircraft, an Ilyushin, was carrying soldiers to Tindouf in the southwest of the country. And, well, there was crew members, military and a lot of civilian people.
KING: Civilians as well.
MENASSEL: Yeah, family members of the military.
KING: This is a very high death toll. Are there any theories about what happened?
MENASSEL: Well, the chief of staff of the national army ordered the immediate appointment of a commission of inquiry to determine the circumstances of the accident. But as I'm talking to you, we have no clue. We have no idea to why this accident happened.
KING: What is the mood in the city of Algiers where you are?
MENASSEL: Just one word - sadness.
MENASSEL: Sadness everywhere, sadness on the social media, sadness on the - well, here at home, it's - we weren't expecting that. It's the biggest - biggest crash in the history of modern Algeria. It's a very big thing, and we are not accustomed to this kind of thing.
KING: The death toll, as you say, is very high. But Algeria has had a recent history of military planes crashing, we were reading this morning. I wonder, are people looking at this as part of a troubling pattern?
MENASSEL: I don't know. I don't know about that. Yes, there was a lot of accidents. I think it's absolutely from ancient material (ph).
KING: The planes are old - is that what you're saying? The planes are old.
MENASSEL: In French we said (speaking French). But I think that army should be more cautious about what they (unintelligible). But, you know, in Algeria, the army don't talk much. So there's a lot of commission, there's a lot of inquiry, but we don't - and we don't know, we don't see the results of these kind of things.
KING: And it sounds like it could be awhile before you get answers. Redha Menassel is a reporter for Algerian National Radio. Redha, thank you so much.
MENASSEL: Thank you.
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