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Jetliner crash in Algeria kills 102

ALGIERS, Algeria — An Air Algerie jet crashed shortly after takeoff from an airport deep in the Sahara Desert on Thursday, killing 102 people on board, the airline said. One person survived.

The crash of the Boeing 737 occurred minutes after the plane left the Algerian town of Tamanrasset bound for the capital, Algiers, nearly 1,000 miles to the north.

"There was a mechanical problem on takeoff," said a spokesman for the airline, Hamid Khamdi. He said he had no other information about the cause of the crash. "Unfortunately, we know only of one survivor," he said.

There were 97 passengers on the plane and six crew members, airline officials said.

The cause of the crash was not immediately known, and there was no word if terrorism was suspected. Algeria, an oil- and gas-rich nation in North Africa, has been torn by a decade-long insurgency by Islamic militants that has left tens of thousands dead.

In late 1994, one of Algeria's most radical groups, the Armed Islamic Group, hijacked an Air France plane, killing three passengers. Most international carriers stopped flights to Algeria after the hijacking, and Air Algerie flights to Paris were suspended for two years.

After Thursday's crash, Prime Minister Ali Benflis convened emergency crisis units at the airports in Algiers and Tamanrasset to deal with the crash, thought to be the first in the history of Algerian commercial aviation.