|(Flight MH17) Rescuers searching scene
A Malaysian jetliner shot from the sky by what US intelligence officials believe was a surface-to-air missile scattered wreckage and bodies across the Ukrainian countryside, leaving investigators scrambling Friday to figure out what happened as rescue workers, policemen and even coal miners combed the crash site.
For the second time in five months, a Malaysia Airlines plane filled with international passengers and crew was lost -- an unthinkable coincidence.
The cause of the crash was not immediately clear. Ukraine accused pro-Russian separatists of shooting down the plane Thursday with 298 people on board flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. The rebels denied it.
Off duty coal miners joined the search efforts early Friday morning in fields near the rebel-held village of Hrabove in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, about 40 kilometers from the Russian border, where fighting has raged for months.
Large chunks of the Boeing 777 that bore the airline's red, white and blue markings lay strewn over a field.
The cockpit and one of the turbines lay about a kilometer apart, and residents said the tail landed about 10 kilometers away, indicating the aircraft most likely broke up before hitting the ground.
American intelligence authorities believe a surface-to-air missile brought the plane down but were still working on who fired the missile and whether it came from the Russian or Ukrainian side of the border, a US official said.
Malaysia's prime minister said there was no distress call before the plane went down and that the flight route was declared safe by the International Civil Aviation Organization.
More than half the passengers on board -- 154 -- were Dutch citizens, with 43 from Malaysia, including the 15 crew members. Another 27 were Australians and 12 from Indonesia. The victims included three infants.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called it an "act of terrorism'' and demanded an international investigation. He insisted his forces did not shoot down the plane.
Earlier in the week, the rebels had claimed responsibility for shooting down two Ukrainian military planes. --AP