A Malaysia Airlines jet with 295 people on board crashed in Ukraine near the Russian border on Thursday, according to the Interfax news agency, and an adviser to the Ukrainian government said that it had been shot down.
Reported By: NBCNEWS.com
The reports could not immediately be confirmed by NBC News, but Malaysia Airlines said on its Twitter account that it had lost contact with an aircraft, Flight 17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. A Reuters correspondent in eastern Ukraine reported seeing the burning wreckage of a plane and bodies on the ground.
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More than four months ago, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board, disappeared in the greatest mystery in modern aviation. Multi-nation searches of swaths of land and ocean have turned up no sign of that aircraft.
A adviser to the Ukrainian interior ministry said that Flight 17, a Boeing 777, had been shot down over a town in the east of the country, The Associated Press reported. Pro-Russian separatists have been fighting Ukrainian security forces in that region for months.
The adviser, Anton Gerashenko, said on his Facebook page that the plane was flying at 33,000 feet when it was hit by a missile fired from a launcher known as a Buk. A similar launcher was seen by Associated Press journalists near the eastern Ukrainian town of Snizhne earlier Thursday.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said on Twitter: “I am shocked by reports that an MH plane crashed. We are launching an immediate investigation.”
The Malaysian defense minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, said that there was no confirmation that the plane had been shot down. He said on Twitter that the Malaysian military had been instructed to “get on it.”
President Barack Obama was briefed and directed his team to be in close touch with senior Ukrainian officials, press secretary Josh Earnest said. Officials at the Pentagon scrambled to learn more and assess who might have had the capability to shoot down an airliner.
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Evan Kohlmann, an NBC News terrorism analyst, said that shooting down a 777 at 33,000 feet would require “access to serious military equipment.”
“The chances this was done by a conventional terrorist group like al Qaeda or something like that is almost nonexistent,” he said.
A Ukrainian military cargo plane was shot down earlier this week, but it was not clear who shot it down.
The FlightStats website showed the last recorded position of Flight 17 over Ukraine, west of the Russia border, at about 9:20 a.m. ET.
An unidentified Russian aviation industry source told Reuters that the plane did not enter Russian airspace when expected.
Boeing said it was trying to learn more and that its thoughts and prayers were with everyone on board, their families and loved ones.
The Boeing 777 had one of the best safety records in the industry. In July 2013, a 777 operated by Asiana Airlines crash-landed in San Francisco. Flight 370, which was also a 777, disappeared March 8.
Source: Santa Clarita News