(ABC NEWS) -- Editor's Note: An earlier report cited the Facebook page of the Ouagadougou airport identifying one of the passengers as Mariela Castro, the niece of former Cuban leader Fidel Castro. ABC News has confirmed that she was not on that flight.
French jets are scouring a vast desert area searching for an Algerian airliner that disappeared from radar and has "probably crashed," the French foreign minister said today.
The Air Algerie jetliner had 110 passengers and six crew members when it took off from Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, en route to Algiers, the airline said.
Air navigation services lost track of the plane, an MD-83 model, about 50 minutes after it took off.
French forces, which are stationed in Mali to help combat al Qaeda and tribal separatists, sent two planes searching for the airliner.
"Despite an intensive search, no traces of the aircraft have been found yet. It has probably crashed," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said.
"The search is at this stage focused on a vast area in the Gao region of Mali," he said.
Much of the region is desert with few roads and an average high temperature of 101 degrees Farenheit (38.5 C) at this time of the year.
"The French Ministry of Defense has deployed resources in the region to find the plane," Fabius said. "Algeria and U.N. forces have done the same. Two French Mirage 2000 based in Niamey have been carrying out reconnaissance flights since this morning."
The airline said that among the passengers were 51 French nationals along with 24 Burkina Faso nationals, six Lebanese, five Canadians, four Algerians, two Luxemburg nationals, one Swiss, one Nigerian, one Cameroonian and one Malian. The six crew members were Spanish.
News of the plane's disappearance came when Swiftair, the Spanish company that operated the plane, released a statement saying the plane had not arrived at its destination.
Transport Minister Jean Bertin Ouedraogo said the plane sent its last message around 0130 GMT (9:30 p.m. EDT Wednesday), asking Niger air control to change its route because of heavy rains in the area.
The flight path of Flight AH5017 from Ouagadougou, the capital of the west African nation of Burkina Faso, to Algiers was not immediately clear.
Ouagadougou is in a nearly straight line south of Algiers, passing over Mali. Northern Mali has been the scene of firefights between the alliance of al-Qaeda affiliated fighters and Tuareg separatists against French troops supporting the Mali government.
A senior French official told the Associated Press that it seems unlikely that fighters in Mali had the kind of weaponry that could shoot down a plane, and that they armed primarily with shoulder-fired weapons — not enough to hit a passenger plane flying at cruising altitude.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.