CBS News – GRABOVO, Ukraine – A Malaysia Airlines passenger plane carrying 298 people was shot down over eastern Ukraine on Thursday, Ukrainian officials said, and both the government and the pro-Russia separatists fighting in the region denied any responsibility for downing the aircraft.
An earlier tally of 295 dead was raised to include three infants in an official list of passengers released by Malaysia Airlines. The bulk of the passengers were from the Netherlands — 154 people. Next highest was 43 from Malaysia and 27 from Australia. It was not immediately known whether any Americans were on board.
U.S. military intelligence strongly suspects a surface-to-air missile brought down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 as it flew at 33,000 feet over the war zone in eastern Ukraine, CBS News has learned.
Wreckage and bodies were spread over several miles along the flight path, CBS News correspondent Bob Orr reported. That would be consistent with the plane being ripped apart by aerodynamic forces after the aircraft was penetrated by a high explosive projectile.
As plumes of black smoke rose up near a rebel-held village of Grabovo, an Associated Press journalist counted at least 22 bodies at the wreckage site 25 miles from the Russian border.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Kiev “bears responsibility” for the crash because the plane was brought down in Ukraine.
“This tragedy would not have happened, if there had been peace on that land, or in any case if military operations in southeastern Ukraine had not been renewed,” Putin said in televised comments, according to Reuters.
A Russian news report said pro-Russia rebels intend to call a three-day cease-fire to allow for an investigation into the crash and recovery efforts.
It was not clear who would take part in the investigation. But, Ukraine likely needs to bring in some high-powered expertise, perhaps from the U.S. or Britain, Orr said.
The U.N. Security Council planned to hold an emergency meeting on Friday morning, hoping to receive unanimous approval for a statement calling for an independent, international investigation of the incident, CBS News’ Pamela Falk reported.
The Boeing 777-200ER plane, traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, appeared to have broken up before impact and the burning wreckage – which included body parts and the belongings of passengers – was scattered over a wide area.
There were no survivors. Malaysia’s prime minister said the plane didn’t make any distress call before it went down, and that the flight route had been declared safe by the International Civil Aviation Organization.
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