US official: Malaysia Airlines plane was shot down - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

US official: Malaysia Airlines plane was shot down

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The Boeing plane was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur and had 295 people on board, Interfax stated. The Boeing plane was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur and had 295 people on board, Interfax stated.
Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crashed near the Ukraine-Russia border Thursday. A Ukraine official said he believed the plane was shot down by pro-Russian rebels, a claim they denied. (Source: EMPR/CNN) Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crashed near the Ukraine-Russia border Thursday. A Ukraine official said he believed the plane was shot down by pro-Russian rebels, a claim they denied. (Source: EMPR/CNN)

(RNN) - U.S. sources confirm to CNN that a Malaysia Airlines flight carrying 298 people was shot down over Ukraine by a surface-to-air missile.

CNN reports a radar system saw a surface-to-air missile track a plane right before it went down and that a second system saw a heat signature when the airliner was hit.

Anton Gerashchenko, Advisor to the Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, claimed on his Facebook page that a Buk missile system was used to shoot down the plane, not an on-the-shoulder missile launcher.

Gerashchenko said the plane crashed near the city of Donetsk, a stronghold for pro-Russian forces.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on Friday has a team headed to the crash site, according to CNN, and it is reported that Russian separatists will give them access to the huge area where plane debris is strewn.

However, OSCE staff have been detained in the past by rebels in eastern Ukraine during the ongoing conflict.

The debris field stretches more than nine miles wide and recovered bodies were seen in a nearby village, according to AP reports.

Rescue teams, which included policemen and even coal miners, were looking over the site in eastern Ukraine, according to an Associated Press report.

Both Malaysian and Australian officials have demanded independent fact-finding teams amid concerns over tampering with physical evidence.

The plane was flying at 33,000 feet, and a shoulder missile launcher has a range of 15,000. The plane did not make a distress call.

The Boeing 777 aircraft was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. All 283 passengers and 15 crew members are believed to be dead.

Malaysia Airlines says 154 victims were Dutch, 43, including the crew, were Malaysian and 28 were Australian. Other passengers hailed from the United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium, the Philippines and Canada. A nationalities of 41 victims have not been identified. 

A report stated there were 23 Americans on the flight, but Jen Psaki with the U.S. State Department said she could not confirm that.

A group scheduled to attend the International Aids Conference in Melbourne, Australia, were on the flight, according to the International AIDS Society. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin puts the blame squarely on the Ukrainians and their fight against pro-Russian rebels.

"This tragedy would not have happened, if there had been peace on that land, or in any case, if military operations in southeastern Ukraine had not been renewed," Putin said in televised remarks. "And without a doubt the government of the territory on which it happened bears responsibility for this frightening tragedy."

"This is a tragic day in what has already been a tragic year for Malaysia," said Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak at a news conference Thursday.

Australia had 28 people on board according to Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who on Friday demanded an independent inquiry into the tragedy, according to the Associated Press.

He also met with Russia’s ambassador to Australia on Friday and said his response was to blame Ukraine for the loss of life, the report said. Abbott was angered by that stance because he said Ukraine separatists operate with Russian-supplied heavy weaponry.

Eurocontrol, the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation, says the airspace was closed up to 32,000 feet, but "was open at the level at which the aircraft was flying." The airspace is now closed until further notice and "all flight plans that are filed using these routes are now being rejected by Eurocontrol."

According to the European Cockpit Association, the route being flown by the plane "is the most common route for flights from Europe to South East Asia."

Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko called it the result of a "terrorist action."

"Armed Forces of Ukraine did not take action against any airborne targets," he said.

Rebels said they did not shoot down the plane and blamed the Ukrainian government.

On Russian President Vladimir Putin's website, he acknowledged he and President Barack Obama discussed the crash of MH-17, as well as the hostilities in Ukraine and the tightening of sanctions against Russia.

"The U.S. will offer its assistance to determine what happened and why," Obama said Thursday.

The flight left Amsterdam at 12:14 p.m. local time and was scheduled to last about 12 hours. That would have put it in Kuala Lumpur around 6 a.m. local time on July 18.

Izzy Sim said she and her family were supposed to be on the flight but switched to a later flight because there weren't enough seats on the plane.

"I'm shaking. I don't even know what to do and I'm physically sick," she told RTL. "I feel like I've been given a second chance."

The Federal Aviation Administration prohibited U.S. aircraft from flying over the Crimea region of Ukraine and Russia since April 25, citing concerns for air-traffic control.

Boeing, the maker of the airplane, issued a statement from their Seattle office: "Our thoughts and prayers are with those on board the Malaysia Airlines airplane lost over Ukrainian airspace, as well as their families and loved ones. Boeing stands ready to provide whatever assistance is requested by authorities."

A Ukrainian cargo plane crashed near the border Monday. A Ukraine government official said they believe it was shot down from the border, and initial reports from U.S. intelligence said the cargo plane was shot down from the Russia side of the border.

In late 2013, then-Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych, who has close ties to Moscow, pulled out of an associated deal with the EU, sparking protests that led to his downfall. Russian troops invaded the Crimean section of Ukraine, with the government later annexing it, and pro-Russian separatists have continued a conflict with Ukraine troops.

The Obama administration announced stronger sanctions Wednesday against Russia.

This incident coincides with the 18th anniversary of the crash of TWA Flight 800. The Boeing 747 was traveling from New York to Paris when it exploded and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean nine miles off the coast of New York on July 17, 1996. The crash killed all 230 passengers and crew.

Malaysia Flight 370 disappeared en route to Beijing, China, after taking off from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on March 8. The flight was carrying 239 people, including three Americans, and gave no signals of distress before losing communication.

On Sept. 1, 1983, Korean Air Lines Flight 007 was shot down by the Soviet Union in the East Sea. Originally, the Soviets denied any knowledge of the incident but later claimed the plane was on a spy mission. The flight data recorders were not released for eight years.

Copyright 2014 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

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