Algeria plane crash recovery operations complete

Recovery operations for those killed in the crash of an Algerian military transport have been completed despite the difficult conditions on the mountain where it crashed, the head of Algeria's civil defense said Thursday.

The C-130 transport crashed on Tuesday into Mount Fortas in eastern Algeria, about 300 miles from the capital, killing 77 people on board, including three women and a girl, according to the Defense Ministry.

The sole survivor is a 21-year-old soldier who is in a coma after sustaining head injuries, the ministry said.

Col. Mohammed Lehbiri, the civil defense chief, told state radio that all the bodies were recovered at an altitude of 5,000 feet with snow on the ground.

"We were able to recover the black box which is in very good condition and contains valuable information for the investigation and will allow us to understand what happened," he said. The military said the plane crashed around noon Tuesday because of high winds and a snowstorm.

The civil defense and the military presented conflicting tolls from the crash Wednesday, with the former saying 76 people had died. Lehbiri became audibly angry when the interviewer questioned the discrepancy.

"It is indecent to quibble over numbers in the face of the families' pain," he said. "All the bodies have been recovered and we will work with the military to coordinate the numbers but for now what is most important is to help the families mourn and overcome their pain."

The bodies have been transferred to a hospital in the nearby city of Constantine where families have come awaiting the process of identification.