Five dead as French mission aircraft crashes in Malta

The French defence ministry said three of its employees were killed in the plane that was on a surveillance mission.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

A twin-prop Fairchild Metroliner crashed in Malta at about 7:20 a.m. (0520 GMT), sending smoke billowing into the sky and closing Malta International Airport for several hours.

Five people were killed after a light aircraft on a French surveillance mission crashed at Malta’s international airport on Monday.

The French defence ministry said that the plane three of those who died were its employees. The other two worked for the company which operated the plane, it said.

"The flight was part of a French customs surveillance operation which has been taking place for the past five months, with the aim of tracing routes of illicit trafficking of all sorts, including human and drug trafficking amongst others," the Maltese government said. Airport officials said the plane had been heading for Misrata in Libya.

A government statement said evidence shows that there was no explosion prior to impact. The remains of all five victims have been recovered and an investigation has begun, it added.

But the French government has not ruled out sabotage as a factor.

Sabotage has not been ruled out as a factor in the plane crash that killed three French officials travelling to Libya.

Airport sources initially said the plane was believed to be carrying officials from European Union border agency Frontex, but the organisation later said none of its staff were involved.

Located just 350 kilometres north of the Libyan capital Tripoli, Malta is on the frontline of Europe's efforts to contain the wave of migrants and refugees trying to reach Italy from Libya in boats operated by people smugglers.

The island is also strategically located for Western powers seeking to monitor developments in Libya, where a fledgling national unity government is struggling to impose its authority and militants loyal to the Daesh terrorist group have established a foothold.

TRTWorld and agencies