The Hercules C-130 aircraft crashed into a mountain six miles north east of Guelmim, located about 515 miles south of the capital Rabat, an army statement said.
In the immediate aftermath of the crash Moroccan military said 78 people had died on impact and 3 had survived but with serious injuries. That was revised, however, when those injured later died in hospital of their wounds.
The military transport plane was trying to land in Guelmim, having flown north from the disputed Western Sahara region with “nine crew, 60 soldiers and 12 civilians”, it added.
That figure was also revised when it emerged one passenger had not boarded the plane but was mistakenly included in the total.
The statement blamed the accident on “bad weather conditions”.
“This is a military plane that is used for the transport of troops, but also of their families. It is widely used in the Sahara,” an Interior Ministry Official added.
“Above all, it was the fog and bad weather conditions that are believed to be behind this accident. But for the moment, we don’t have enough information,” the source said.
In a letter addressed to relatives of the victims, King Mohammed - who heads the army - said he was “deeply moved by this painful accident”, according to the state-run news agency, Maghreb Arabe Presse (MAP).
The crash is Morocco’s worst known air disaster since 1973, when 105 people were killed after a Royal Air Maroc aircraft crashed near the capital Rabat.
The last time a plane crashed in Morocco was in 1994 when a Royal Air Maroc plane went down near the southwestern city of Agadir, killing all 44 passengers and crew on board, said Moroccan state television. A government committee later ruled the Agadir crash was deliberately caused by the pilot.
Morocco keeps the majority of its soldiers in the Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, annexed by Rabat in 1979. The Saharawi people want to establish the region as an independent state. (Reuters; MAP)
Source: Reuters; MAP