A small plane which crashed in a fireball at Malta International Airport soon after take-off, killing all five crew members aboard, had been heading to Libya to monitor migrant trafficking routes for the French government.
The twin-prop Fairchild Metroliner exploded in a huge ball of flame and smoke shortly after take-off on Monday morning.
A statement from the Maltese government said all five victims were French.
It added that the flight was part of a French customs surveillance operation tracing routes of illicit trafficking, including drugs and people-smuggling.
Part of the burning wreckage ended up on a road outside the perimeter of the airport.
The plane was on its way to Misrata on the Libyan coast.
Malta International Airport has been temporarily closed until the debris is cleared, with over a dozen flights delayed or cancelled, according to a notice on the airport website.
The five victims were three French defence ministry officials and two private contractors.
Libya is the main point of departure for the tens of thousands of migrants who have been paying smugglers to bring them toward Europe by boat.
Malta’s International Airport is used for surveillance flights to Libya due to its proximity. The government said the French surveillance operation has been active for about five months.
The Metroliner was registered in the US and leased to a Luxembourg company, CAE Aviation group, which supplied the two contractors who were killed.