Missile That Hit Malaysia Airlines Jet Launched From Area Controlled by Russian Separatists: US Official

ALYSSA NEWCOMB, DAN GOOD, COLLEEN CURRY, LUIS MARTINEZ and ANTHONY CASTELLANO
Good Morning America

Intelligence officials in the United States said today that the missile that brought down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 and killed 298 people was launched from inside Ukraine in an area controlled by Russian Separatists.

There is nothing that definitively links Russia to the training of those who launched the missile on Thursday, U.S. officials told ABC News.

The officials said that based on preliminary intelligence, they believe the missile was an SA-11 and that they have reports showing an explosion in the air following the missile launch.

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Intelligence and analysis of the situation determined that it was a single surface-to-air missile that struck the Boeing 777-200 aircraft while at cruising altitude, a U.S. official told ABC News on Thursday.


Investigators from around the world will descend on the crash site today to continue the probe into the missile launch and subsequent crash.

The pro-Russian separatists who control the area where the jetliner was brought down agreed to allow investigators safe access to the site in order to recover bodies and gather evidence, according to a statement from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.


It was unclear how soon investigators would begin sifting through the wreckage, which went down Thursday in Ukraine near the Russian border. The plane had left Amsterdam at 12:15 p.m. Thursday (local time) and was estimated to arrive in Kuala Lumpur International Airport today at 6:10 a.m. (local time), according to Malaysia Airlines.

FBI and NTSB officials are poised to head to Ukraine in an "advisory role" in the investigation, a senior U.S. administration official told ABC News.


Malaysia Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai, speaking at a news conference this morning, said initial indications show the plane was shot down, calling it "an outrage against human decency."

"Malaysia condemns any such action in the strongest possible terms, and calls for those responsible to be swiftly brought to justice," he added.

Malaysia officials are calling for an independent international investigation into the incident.

At this point, no Americans have been verified among the passengers. Malaysia officials said that 189 passengers were Dutch. In addition, according to officials at a news conference, 44 were Malaysian, 27 Australians, 12 Indonesians, nine British, four Belgians, four Germans, three Filipinos, one Canadian and one New Zealander. Nationalities of four other passengers remain unknown at this time.


Among the victims identified were the Gunawan family, relatives of an ABC News employee. Hadiono Gunawan, an employee of Malaysia Airlines, was headed to the Philippines for a family vacation. His wife, Irene, and their two children, Daryl and Sherryl, were traveling with him.

Karlijn Keijzer, a Dutch student studying in the United States, was going on vacation with her boyfriend.

"I'm just in disbelief and expecting Karlijn to pop up on Facebook and tell everybody she's OK," Keijzer's friend, Rachel Weigler said in a phone interview with ABC News.


Amid the tragedy were unbelievable twists of fate. Sarah Moonen said her brother and a friend were bumped from the flight at the last minute, but two of their friends boarded the jetliner.

"I felt bad for feeling good that my family hadn't been ruined and that my brother was alive," Moonen said.

The International AIDS Society said it was looking into reports that some of its members may have been on the flight en route to the International AIDS Conference taking place in Melbourne, Australia.

The World Health Organization announced on its Twitter account that spokesman Glenn Thomas was on board the jetliner.


John Wendle, a freelance reporter for ABC News, described seeing "bodies scattered everywhere" at the crash site.

"There's blood splattered everywhere, and pieces of remains," Wendle said. "It's a pretty grim sight...This is terrible."

Ukrainian authorities told U.S. Embassy officials that debris was spread out over a 10-mile path near the town of Hrabove in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine.

A statement from the Foreign Ministry in Kiev just hours after the incident claimed the plane had been "shot down."

"According to the General Staff of Ukrainian Armed Forces, the airplane was shot down by the Russian Buk missile system as the liner was flying at an altitude of 10,000 meters [33,000 feet]," the statement read. "Ukraine has no long-range air defense missile systems in this area. The plane was shot down, because the Russian air defense systems was affording protection to Russian mercenaries and terrorists in this area. Ukraine will present the evidence of Russian military involvement into the Boeing crash."


Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko later added, "We are not calling it an accident, or a disaster, but an act of terrorism."

A Kremlin statement said that Russian President Vladimir Putin had opened a meeting with his economic advisers by calling for a moment of silence over the crash.

"This tragedy would not have happened if there were peace on this land, if the military actions had not been renewed in southeast Ukraine," he said. "And, certainly, the state over whose territory this occurred bears responsibility for this awful tragedy."


The FAA has issued an order that U.S. flight operations avoid airspace over eastern Ukraine, expanding on a previous warning about flying over the contested Crimean region and additional portions adjacent to the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.

At Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, grieving family members gathered as airline officials briefed them. Malaysia Airlines said a manifest of the passengers would not be released until all next of kin were notified.

This is the second Malaysia Airlines plane to be involved in an air tragedy this year. On March 8, Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 vanished with 239 people on board after it took off from Kuala Lampur bound for Beijing. Malaysian officials said the plane disappeared somewhere in the Southern Indian Ocean, but no wreckage has been recovered.

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