An Air Algerie jetliner carrying 110 passengers and six crew members disappeared from radar following takeoff Thursday.
Air navigation services lost track of the plane about 50 minutes after it took off from Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.
Swiftair, the Spanish company that operated the plane, released a statement saying the plane, a MD-83 model, had not arrived at its destination.
Burkina Faso's transport minister said 50 French nationals were among those onboard, along with 24 Burkina Faso nationals, six Lebanese, five Canadians, four Algerians, two Luxemburg nationals, one Swiss, one Nigerian, one Cameroonian and one Malian.
Transport Minister Jean Bertin Ouedraogo also said the plane sent its last message around 0130 GMT (9:30 p.m. EDT), 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 fighting 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.