A passenger jet carrying 153 people en route to the island nation of Comoros crashed early Tuesday. Here is a closer look at the country:
The Comoros archipelago lies in the Indian Ocean between the southeast African coast and the island of Madagascar. The largest island of Grand Comore was formed by a still active volcano. The country comprises two other main islands and numerous coral reefs and islets.
The 700,000 residents are a mix of African, Arab and Malay descent and are overwhelmingly Muslim. French and Arabic are official languages but most people speak a mixture of Arabic and Swahili.
France controlled the islands for 130 years before the Comoros declared independence in 1975.
The vast majority of Comorans are subsistence farmers and annual per capita income is about $300, making it one of the world's poorest nations. Even the dietary staple, rice, has to be imported. There is virtually no manufacturing. The only exports are vanilla, cocoa and ylang-ylang flower extract, which is used in perfume.
Comoros' first president, Ahmed Abdallah Abderrahmane, was overthrown in 1975, restored to power in 1978 and weathered several coup attempts before his assassination in 1989. The archipelago has undergone numerous coups and attempted coups since then.
The late Bob Denard, a notorious French mercenary, controlled the Comoros behind a figurehead leader for most of the 1980s, following a coup he led.
In February 2001, a mediated agreement brought more political stability to Comoros by giving each island greater control over its own affairs. Each of the main islands now has a regional leader under President Ahmed Abdallah Sambi, who won the May 2006 vote.