A MILITARY plane carrying soldiers and their families has crashed in northern Algeria, killing 257 people in what appears to be the worst plane crash in the North African nation’s history.

Those killed included 247 passengers and 10 crew members, according to Algeria’s defence ministry.

An investigation has been launched but the cause of the crash, which happened in farmland, remains unclear.

The ministry said that the victims’ bodies were transported to the Algerian army’s central hospital in the town of Ain Naadja for identification.

The flight had just taken off from Boufarik military base, about 20 miles south west of the capital Algiers, headed for a military base in Bechar in south-west Algeria, according to Farouk Achour, chief spokesman for the civil protection services.

The Soviet-designed Il-76 military transport plane, which was scheduled to make a layover in Tindouf in southern Algeria, crashed in an agricultural zone with no residents, Achour said.

Footage from the scene showed thick black smoke coming off the field, as well as ambulances and Red Crescent vehicles arriving at the site.

It was the first crash of an Algerian military plane since February 2014, when a US-built C-130 Hercules turboprop crashed into a mountain, killing 76 people and leaving just one survivor.