298 dead as Malaysia passenger airliner crashes near Russia
A Malaysian airliner was shot down over eastern Ukraine by militants today, killing all 298 people aboard, a Ukrainian interior ministry official was quoted as saying by Interfax-Ukraine news agency.
The aircraft, which other sources said was a Boeing 777 flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, came down near the city of Donetsk, stronghold of pro-Russian rebels, Anton Gerashchenko said, adding that it was hit by a ground-to-air missile.
Malaysia Airlines said on its Twitter feed it had lost contact with its flight MH-17 from Amsterdam. "The last known position was over Ukrainian airspace," it said.
Dozens of bodies were scattered around the smouldering wreckage of the passenger jet.
An emergency services rescue worker said at least 100 bodies had so far been found at the scene, near the village of Grabovo, and that debris from the wreckage was spread across an area up to about 15 km in diameter.
Broken pieces of the wings were marked with blue and red paint - the same colours as the emblem of the Malaysian airline which lost track of a Boeing 777 en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur that was carrying almost 300 people.
All those aboard the plane were killed, a Ukrainian interior ministry official said, blaming "terrorists" using a ground-to-air missile.
A later statement from Malaysia Airlines revealed that the plane was carrying 298 passengers, and that the flight route had been declared safe by the UN aviation arm, the International Civil Aviation Organisation.
It also said the International Air Transportation Association "had stated that the airspace the aircraft was traversing was not subject to restrictions".
The airline said the plane was carrying a total 298 people, including three infants - 283 passengers and 15 crew. It earlier said it had been carrying 295 people.
Interfax-Ukraine quoted a Ukrainian official as saying the plane disappeared from radar when it was flying at 10,000 metres, a typical cruising altitude for airliners.
It came down at Torez, near Shakhtersk, some 40 km (25 miles) from the Russia border. The area has been the scene of fighting between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian rebels.
Ukraine has accused Russia of taking an active role in the four-month-old conflict in recent days and accused it earlier on Thursday of shooting down a Ukrainian fighter jet - an accusation that Moscow denied.