Kuala Lumpur/Kiev, Jul 17: All 295 people on board a Malaysia Airlines plane were killed today after the jet was shot down by “terrorists” over war-torn eastern Ukraine near the Russian border, nearly four months after the mysterious disappearance of MH370 in the Indian Ocean.
The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur carrying 280 passengers and 15 crew.
Malaysia Airlines confirmed that it received notification from Ukrainian Air Traffic Control that it had lost contact with Flight MH17 at 1415 GMT (8:45 IST) at 30km from Tamak waypoint, approximately 50km from the Russia-Ukraine border.
“Nearly 300 people died when a Malaysia Airlines Boeing- 777 crashed in eastern Ukraine,” an advisor to the Ukrainain Interior Minister, Anton Herashchenko, said.
“It was flying at the altitude of 10,000 meters. 280 passengers and 15 crew members died,” he said in a Facebook post. “The aircraft was shot down over Ukraine by terrorists operating a Buk surface-to-air missile system,” he said.
Witnesses from the town of Torez in the rebellion-wracked Donetsk region of Ukraine told RIA Novosti news agency that the plane wreckage and dead bodies have been found in the area. The plane disappeared from the radar and teams from the emergency services have reached the scene.
Burning aircraft wreckage and bodies strewn on the ground were seen at the village of Grabovo, some 40 kms from the Russian border in an area where pro-Russian rebels are active. Malaysia Airlines confirmed on Twitter, “Malaysian Airlines has lost contact of MH17 from Amsterdam. The last known position of the plane was over Ukrainian airspace”.
Malaysia’s Star newspaper quoting sources said the plane was “shot down” while cruising at an altitude of 30,000 feet.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said that the jetliner may have been shot down over his country’s airspace. Ukrainian officials have accused pro-Russian rebels of being responsible for shooting down the plane. “We do not exclude that the plane was shot down and confirm that the Ukraine Armed Forces did not fire at any targets in the sky,” Poroshenko said in a statement posted on the president’s website.
The plane could have been brought down by a ground-to-air missile, sources said.
“I am shocked by reports that an MH plane crashed,” Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said on his Twitter feed. “We are launching an immediate investigation,” he said as he rushed to the Kuala Lumpur airport.
Today’s crash comes four months after the Beijing-bound Malaysia Airlines MH370 disappeared with 239 people including five Indians on board after taking off from Kuala Lumpur on March 8. The plane has still not been found.
A number of Ukrainian military planes have been shot down by missiles in recent weeks. Ukraine has accused Russia’s military of supplying advanced missiles to the rebels. Earlier today, Ukrainian officials blamed the Russian air force for shooting down one of its jets yesterday.
Tensions have been high between Ukraine and Russia since street protests forced former pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych from power in February. Russia subsequently annexed Ukraine’s southeastern Crimea region and a pro-Russia separatist rebellion has been raging in Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk and Donetsk regions.
Ukrainian forces have been struggling to quell the separatist unrest. Ukraine’s government has accused Russia of allowing weapons and military equipment, including tanks, to cross the border illegally into the hands of pro-Russia separatists.