Malaysian jet shot down by surface-to-air missile – US officials

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WASHINGTON (AFP) – A Malaysian airliner with 295 people on board was shot down over Ukraine by a surface-to-air missile Thursday but it was unclear who fired the weapon, US officials told AFP.

US intelligence analysts “strongly believe” a surface-to-air missile downed the plane and are reviewing data to determine whether the weapon was launched by pro-Moscow separatists in Ukraine, Russian troops across the border or Ukrainian government forces, said a US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“We are working through all the analysis,” said one official.

But that there was little doubt that the plane was struck by a surface-to-air missile, the official said.

“That’s what we strongly believe.”

In Detroit, US Vice President Joe Biden said the plane was “apparently… and I say apparently because we don’t have all the details yet… shot down. Not an accident. Blown out of the sky.”

The airliner was reportedly flying at an altitude of more than 30,000 feet (10 kilometers), putting it within range of Russian-made Buk missiles that are in the arsenals of both Ukrainian and Russian forces.

Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 took off from Amsterdam en route to Kuala Lumpur. Ukrainian air traffic controllers lost contact with the plane at 1415 GMT, about four hours into its flight and some 50 kilometers from the Russia-Ukraine border.

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