Source: Malaysian Airliner Shot Down by Surface-to-Air Missile

There were 298 people on board; no word yet on any American casualties

"Shot down. Shot down. Not an accident. Blown out of the sky."

With those words Vice President Joseph R. Biden Thursday gave official U.S. confirmation to what Ukraine had been saying for hours: It was a ground-launched missile that blew Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 apart, scattering its cockpit six miles from its tail in a swath of wreckage and death around the village of Hrabove, and presumably killing all 298 people on board. The crash happened about 10 a.m. Boston time as the Boeing 777-200ER was being flown from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

Now, with Russia, Ukraine, and pro-Russian Ukrainian rebels all denying they fired the missile, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said: "This must be resolved by an international investigation to establish the facts of what has happened."

Max Abrahms, a Northeastern University professor and Council on Foreign Relations member, thinks all signs point to the pro-Russian rebels who've seized the area around Hrabove, and Ukraine released intercepted phone calls it said were rebels reporting to a Russian military intelligence officer their dismay to discover what they thought was a military transport they’d shot down was a passenger plane.

"Over the past few days in particular, we've seen an increase in weaponry flowing from the Russian government to these insurgents, and if it were the insurgents who took down this plane, it would surely be with the help, with the weaponry, of the Russian government," Abrahms said.

That would make Russian president Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian rebel allies responsible for nearly 300 dead innocent civilians from countries including the Netherlands, Indonesia, Malaysia, the United Kingdom, the Philippines – and potentially the United States, although early reports 23 Americans were listed on the passenger manifest had not been confirmed as this report was being aired.

"This plane went down at the hands of somebody," Abrahms said, "but nobody's claiming responsibility precisely because it's an international liability since it's a civilian aircraft."

Another big unanswered question Thursday night: Why was this jetliner flying through a zone that the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, in a "notice to airmen" issued in April, ordered U.S. airlines not to fly through because of the danger of military activity and Russian-Ukrainian air-traffic-control conflict?

Malaysia Airlines senior vice president Huib Gorter insisted Flight 17 was not off course or operating in a banned area. "It is classified as a safe airway to fly over. Otherwise, in our industry, you would not be allowed to file a flight plan," Gorter said.

Biden said: "There are many questions that need to be answered, and we will get these answers, and we will take the next steps accordingly."

With video editor Beth Kidwell. NECN’s Josh Brogadir and videographer Scott Wholley contributed to this report

For up-to-the-minute news and weather, be sure to follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

Contact Us