GRABOVE, July 18 – A Malaysian airliner crashed in strife-torn east Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board and leaving a horrific trail of carnage on the ground, with US claims it was shot down in a missile attack prompting global consternation.
Kiev accused pro-Russian separatists battling Ukrainian forces of the “terrorist act” as stunned world leaders called for an international inquiry into the disaster, which could further fan the flames of the worst East-West crisis since the Cold War.
The downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, enroute from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, also heaps new distress on Malaysia and its flag carrier, which is still afflicted by the trauma and global stigma of flight MH370’s disappearance four months ago.
Dozens of mutilated corpses and body parts were strewn around the smouldering wreckage of the Boeing 777, which went down Thursday in a cornfield in the village of Grabove near the Russian border. Shocked residents of the village said the crash felt “like an earthquake”.
Malaysian Airlines said 283 passengers and 15 crew were aboard the plane — including 154 Dutch nationals, 27 Australians and 43 Malaysians.
As many as 100 of those killed in the crash were delegates heading to Australia for a global AIDS conference, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
As Malaysian investigators headed to the scene, the UN Security Council called an emergency session on Friday to discuss the disaster. READ: Ukraine President says Malaysia jet may have been shot down.
President Barack Obama warned evidence among scattered debris must not be tampered with as the United States called for an unimpeded and prompt investigation.
Comments attributed to a pro-Russia rebel chief suggested his men may have downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 by mistake, believing it was a Ukrainian army transport plane.
However Russian President Vladimir Putin’s said Kiev bore full responsibility for the crash, saying Ukraine’s crackdown on separatist rebels stoked tensions that led to the disaster.