That was the question on the lips of people throughout the
It was one of many. How? Why? Who?
There were no immediate answers.
The deaths of 298 people aboard Malaysia Airlines flight
MH17, shot down yesterday over eastern Ukraine, caused an
international outpouring of grief, anger and confusion.
The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 was flying from Amsterdam to
Kuala Lumpur when what US intelligence authorities believe
was a surface-to-air missile brought it down.
Who fired the missile is still not clear, but Britain
said today it was increasingly likely that separatists in
eastern Ukraine were to blame.
A US official yesterday said Washington strongly suspected
the aircraft was downed
by a sophisticated Buk surface-to-air missile fired by
separatists backed by Moscow.
A spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron said the
evidence suggested that separatists had shot down the
airliner with a surface-to-air missile fired from Torez, in
an area of eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian
Among the victims were a New Zealand woman - a longtime
resident of Australia - and a British citizen who had been
living in New Zealand. Also killed were 28 Australians.
Most of the dead, 173 people, were Dutch. Twenty-eight were
Malaysian, 12 Indonesian, nine British, four German, four
Belgian, three Filipino and one from Canada. All 15 crew were
Malaysian. Nationalities of the others on board were unclear.
World leaders demanded an international investigation as Kiev
and Moscow blamed each other for a tragedy that stoked
tensions between Russia and the West.
There were no survivors from yesterday's crash, which left
wreckage and bodies scattered across miles of rebel-held
The scale of the disaster could prove a turning point for
international pressure to resolve the crisis in Ukraine,
which has killed hundreds since protests toppled the
Moscow-backed president in Kiev in February and Russia
annexed the Crimea a month later.
The United States called for an immediate ceasefire to allow
easy access to the crash site, while pro-Russian separatists
told the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in
Europe, a security and rights body, they would ensure safe
access for international experts visiting the scene.
The plane crashed about 40km from the border with Russia,
near the regional capital of Donetsk, an area that is a
stronghold of rebels who have been fighting Ukrainian
Leaders of the rebel Donetsk People's Republic denied any
involvement and said a Ukrainian air force jet had brought
down the intercontinental flight.
Reuters journalists saw burning and charred wreckage bearing
the red and blue Malaysia Airlines insignia and dozens of
bodies in fields near the village of Grabovo.
''While we do not yet have all the facts, we do know that
this incident occurred in the context of a crisis in Ukraine
that is fuelled by Russian support for the separatists,
including through arms, materiel, and training,'' White House
spokesman Josh Earnest said in a statement.
US Vice-president Joe Biden said it appeared the downing of
the jetliner was not an accident and that it apparently was
''blown out of the sky''.
A tough-talking Prime Minister Tony Abbott pointed blame at
Russia, going further than other Western leaders, demanding
yesterday that Moscow answer questions about the
''Russian-backed rebels'' that he said were behind the
In a sombre speech, Mr Abbott said the world should be
''filled with revulsion''.
Some of those on board were travelling to an international
Aids conference in Melbourne, including Joep Lange, an
influential Dutch expert.
The Independent reported two Newcastle United fans travelling
to New Zealand were also feared to be among the victims. The
fans' website, NUFC.com, said John Alder, in his 60s, and
Liam Sweeney (28) planned to watch their team play in a
pre-season tour that starts in Dunedin on Tuesday.
''I was working in the field on my tractor when I heard the
sound of a plane and then a bang,'' a man said in Grabovo
(locally called Hrabove).
''Then I saw the plane hit the ground and break in two. There
was thick black smoke.''
The loss of MH17 is the second devastating blow for Malaysia
Airlines this year, following the mysterious disappearance of
flight MH370 in March, which vanished with 239 passengers and
crew on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
In Malaysia, there was a sense of disbelief that another
airline disaster could strike so soon.
''If it transpires that the plane was indeed shot down, we
insist that the perpetrators must swiftly be brought to
justice,'' Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said.
''This is a tragic day, in what has already been a tragic
year for Malaysia.''
Ukraine accused pro-Moscow militants, aided by Russian
military intelligence officers, of firing a long-range,
Soviet-era SA-11 ground-to-air missile.
Russian President Vladimir Putin - at loggerheads with the
West over his policies towards Ukraine - pinned the blame on
Kiev for renewing its offensive against rebels two weeks ago
after a ceasefire failed to hold.
''There is no doubt that the country on whose territory this
terrible tragedy happened bears responsibility,'' he said.
US President Barack Obama said evidence from the crash must
remain in Ukraine so international investigators have a
chance to look at it.
Kiev complained separatists prevented Ukrainian officials
from reaching the site.
Separatists said yesterday they had found one of the flight
recorders, and a Reuters cameraman at the scene said rescue
workers had recovered a second flight recorder.
A Ukrainian military cargo plane and a fighter jet crashed
this week in separate incidents as Ukrainian forces clashed
with separatists, raising concerns the separatists could be
armed with sophisticated anti-aircraft weapons.