Dutch Probe: Soviet-Made Surface-to-Air Buk Missile Downed Malaysian Jet in Ukraine

Also see [GRAPHIC PHOTOS] Live Updates: Passenger Jet Downed in Ukraine, Buk Missile Attack Suspected, 23 American Passengers Suspected Dead

The missile shot skyward from war-ravaged eastern Ukraine. With deadly accuracy more than six miles up, it detonated just in front of the Malaysia Airlines jetliner, sending hundreds of jagged steel shards ripping through its aluminum skin at up to 5,600 mph and shearing the cockpit from the rest of the plane.

“The 15-month Dutch investigation blamed a Soviet-made surface-to-air Buk missile for downing the Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur flight, but it did not explicitly say who had fired it.”

The two pilots and purser in the cockpit died instantly, and the Boeing 777 disintegrated and fell to earth, killing the rest of the 298 men, women and children aboard Flight 17 on July 17, 2014, Dutch investigators said Tuesday in a long-awaited report.

“The Dutch Safety Board also found that the tragedy wouldn’t have happened if the airspace of eastern Ukraine had been totally closed to passenger planes as fighting raged below.”

Some of the victims may have been conscious for 60 to 90 seconds, the Dutch Safety Board said, but they probably were not fully aware of what was happening in the oxygen-starved, freezing chaos. The tornado-like airflow surging through the doomed jet as it came apart was powerful enough to tear off people’s clothes and leave naked corpses amid the fields of sunflowers.

“Our investigation showed that all parties regarded the conflict in eastern part of Ukraine from a military perspective. Nobody gave any thought of a possible threat to civil aviation.”

— Safety Board chairman Tjibbe Joustra

The 15-month Dutch investigation blamed a Soviet-made surface-to-air Buk missile for downing the Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur flight, but it did not explicitly say who had fired it. It identified an area of 320 square kilometers (120 square miles) where it said the launch must have taken place, and all of the land was in the hands of pro-Russian separatists fighting Ukrainian forces at the time of the disaster, according to daily maps of fighting released by the Ukrainian National Security Council.

The Dutch Safety Board also found that the tragedy wouldn’t have happened if the airspace of eastern Ukraine had been totally closed to passenger planes as fighting raged below.

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“Our investigation showed that all parties regarded the conflict in eastern part of Ukraine from a military perspective. Nobody gave any thought of a possible threat to civil aviation,” Safety Board chairman Tjibbe Joustra said in releasing the report at a military base in the southern Netherlands.

He spoke in front of the partially reassembled red, white and blue Malaysian jetliner, much of the left side of its mangled fuselage front riddled with shrapnel holes.

Russian officials were prompt to dismiss the Dutch report, with Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov calling it an obvious “attempt to make a biased conclusion, in essence to carry out a political order.”

Earlier Tuesday, the Buk’s manufacturer presented its own report trying to clear the separatists, and Russia itself, of any involvement.

[Read the full text here, at ABC News]

The Russian state-controlled consortium Almaz-Antey said it conducted experiments, including one in which a Buk missile was detonated near the nose of an airplane similar to a 777, and it contended they contradicted the conclusion that a Buk missile of the kind used by the Russians destroyed Flight 17. Almaz-Antey had earlier suggested that it could have been a model of Buk that is no longer in service with the Russian military but is part of Ukraine’s arsenal.

It said the experiments also rebutted claims the missile was fired from Snizhne, a village that was under rebel control. An Associated Press reporter saw a Buk missile system in that vicinity on the same day.

Despite the moves by Moscow, Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands called on Russia to fully cooperate with a separate criminal investigation that Dutch prosecutors are conducting into the downing of the plane, in which 196 Dutch nationals died. Read the rest of this entry »


The American Bar Association Mumbles as Beijing Arrests Lawyers

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Not Such Good American Friends.

Every foreign business or nonprofit in China has to balance its principles with the realities of operating in a dictatorship. But what’s the point of claiming to promote the rule of law in China if your presence and silence serve as political cover for the worst legal abuses?

China’s recent arrests of human-rights lawyers have drawn protests from around the world, but there’s a notable, mumbling exception: the American Bar Association.

“ABA leaders acknowledge that the development of a just rule of law is a continuing struggle in every nation, including the United States.”

— ABA President William Hubbard

State security agents rounded up some 235 lawyers and other legal activists around the country last month, some of them grabbed, hooded and not heard from since. Beijing officials have railed against a “major criminal gang” of lawyers “plotting to stir up sensitive cases.”

Activists protest outside the Chinese embassy in Bangkok on August 6, 2015. Amnesty International staged a protest outside the Chinese embassy to demand the release of over 200 human rights lawyers and activists in China. AFP PHOTO / Nicolas ASFOURI

Amnesty International staged a protest outside the Chinese embassy to demand the release of over 200 human rights lawyers and activists in China. AFP/ Nicolas ASFOURI

Some brave voices inside China have spoken up for these political prisoners, as have legal groups in Hong Kong and Taiwan. The New York City Bar Association expressed “grave concern” and called on Beijing to “immediately release” those lawlessly detained, more than 20 of whom it cited by name. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] MH370 Mystery: Officials Confirm Fragment Is From Missing Flight


The Malaysian prime minister confirmed Wednesday that the airplane fragment that washed up on an island last week came from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 — the first definitive clue to the greatest mystery in modern aviation.

The fragment, a 6-foot-long, barnacle-encrusted wing flap, was discovered July 29 by a crew cleaning the beach on Reunion Island, a French territory in the Indian Ocean off the southern tip of Africa.

Investigators had already determined that it came from a Boeing 777, and Flight 370 was the only plane of that model missing in the world.

But the confirmation on Wednesday provided the first concrete physical evidence of what became of the plane after it disappeared from radar on March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board. Read the rest of this entry »


Beijing Announces Addition of ‘White House Fence Jumping’ Event to 2022 Olympics

White House Fence

Though controversial, the addition of ‘White House Fence Jumping’ and ‘Freestyle White House Barricade Jumping‘ events to Beijing’s 2022 Olympics is seen as an important effort to bring creativity and excitement to Olympic competition in the 21st century.

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A full-scale model of the White House’s newly-erected barricades and pointy fences is being constructed in a top-secret location near Beijing. Government sources declined to comment.

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Malaysian Cartoonist Zunar Charged With Nine Counts of Sedition

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Zunar says he will ‘draw until the last drop of ink’

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia—A cartoonist known for lampooning Malaysia’s ruling coalition has been charged with nine counts of sedition over a series of tweets criticizing the country’s judiciary system.

On Friday, lawyer Latheefa Koya said the charges against Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, better known as Zunar, are excessive and are aimed at silencing government critics. She says Mr. Zunar faces up to 43 years in jail if found guilty on all nine charges.

The nine tweets criticizing the judiciary were posted Feb. 10 when opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim began serving a five-year prison sentence after losing his final appeal on a sodomy charge.

Malaysian political cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, better known as Zunar, played with fake handcuffs during his court case in Kuala Lumpur on Friday. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Malaysian political cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, better known as Zunar, played with fake handcuffs during his court case in Kuala Lumpur on Friday. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

“The lackeys in black robes are proud of their sentence. The rewards from the political masters must be plenty,” said one of the tweets. “Today Malaysia is seen as a country without law,” said another.

Mr. Anwar’s arrest was seen by many at home and abroad as politically motivated to eliminate any threat to the ruling coalition, whose popularity has been eroding slowly since 2008 after more than five decades of dominance. Mr. Anwar and his three-member opposition alliance were seen as the most potent political threat to Prime Minister Najib Razak’s coalition. Read the rest of this entry »


Malaysian Cartoonist Draws Attention of Police

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Police Raid Cartoonist’s Office

“They’re trying to keep me quiet. If I was here at the time, I’m sure they would have arrested me, too.”

— Cartoonist Zulkiflee ‘Zunar‘ Anwar Ulhaque

KUALA LUMPUR — James Hookway reports: Malaysian cartoonist Zunar’s doodlings aren’t much of a joke for the country’s rulers.Cover-web1

[Zumar’s newest book, “The Conspiracy to Imprison Anwar,” spans the entire sodomy saga. More details and ordering information for the English edition here]

For years, he has poked fun at figures of authority, including Prime Minister Najib Razak and former premier Mahathir Mohamad, becoming part of the cultural landscape in the process. His cartoons have been collected in a series of books and are featured on the country’s most popular Internet news sites. The latest collection focuses on the long-running sodomy trials involving opposition champion Anwar Ibrahim, for which the final verdict is due Feb. 10.

“I started out with too many words. There was too much going on. Now, I try and just use a drawing, and the simpler the better. If people get the message, then they like it, like they are in on a secret.”

Last week, though, with tension in the country mounting ahead of the decision, police raided the cartoonist’s office in a nondescript business park in Kuala Lumpur’s suburbs and seized 149 of his books to assess whether Mr. Zunar should be added to the list of Malaysians to be prosecuted for sedition. Broadly defined, sedition criminalizes speech that could incite contempt toward the government or inflame hostility between the various ethnic groups in the country.

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“They’re trying to keep me quiet,” said the grizzled, 51-year-old Mr. Zunar, whose full name is Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque. “If I was here at the time, I’m sure they would have arrested me, too.” He was in England when the raid occurred, but is now back at home.

Police officials declined to comment on the investigation.

“The Malaysian government condemned the attack on Charlie Hebdo. But what are they doing here? They are trying to shut me down.”

Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, better known as Zunar, is Malaysia’s leading political cartoonist. He takes The Wall Street Journal through the evolution of his craft.

That Malaysian authorities are investigating Mr. Zunar at all speaks volumes about how tensions are running high in the run-up to the Anwar verdict.

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His newest book, “The Conspiracy to Imprison Anwar,” spans the entire sodomy saga. It starts in 1998, when the goateed, bespectacled Mr. Anwar, now 67, was fired as deputy prime minister after challenging Dr. Mahathir’s leadership. Mr. Zunar sketches his way through the opposition leader’s first sodomy trial and the six years he spent in prison until his conviction was overturned in 2004, before turning his pen to the current case, which began in 2008.

Now, as before, Mr. Anwar denies allegations, which were made by a male former aide. The government denies Mr. Anwar’s claim that the charges were orchestrated against him. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Captured by Dash Cam: TransAsia Plane Crashes Into River in Taiwan

More Than Two Dozen People Killed as Carrier Loses Second Aircraft in Seven Months; Black-Box Recorders Located

TAIPEI— Jenny W. Hsu ,Fanny Liu and Aries Poon reporting: Rescue workers continued with their search efforts late Wednesday using lights erected over the Keelung River, seeking missing passengers of TransAsia Flight 235, which crashed shortly after takeoff in Taiwan’s second deadly air accident in seven months.

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Emergency personnel try to extract passengers from a commercial flight with 58 people aboard that crashed in Taipei on Wednesday morning WALLY SANTANA/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Taiwan’s Civil Aeronautics Administration said late Wednesday that 25 people were dead, including at least two male Chinese nationals, and 16 people were injured. The plane was carrying 53 passengers and five cabin crew.

The authority said the control tower lost communication with the pilots four minutes after the takeoff from Taipei’s Songshan Airport en route to Kinmen, an outlying islandTransAsia near China’s mainland, around 10:53 a.m. local time. Many of the passengers were Chinese tourists from the province next to Kinmen.

The black box recorder has been located and authorities have begun the decoding process. The Aviation Safety Council, which is in charge of the investigation, declined to give an estimated time of when an initial report will be released. In the past, a preliminary analysis from the recorder has taken anywhere from days to weeks.

Dramatic images taken by drivers with dashboard cameras of the plane, a low-flying ATR-72 turboprop, as it clipped an overpass before plunging into a river were ubiquitous on social-media websites within hours of the crash, sparking heated discussions and messages of condolence.

The crash adds to fears about air safety in Asia following several aviation disasters in the region in 2014.

The most recent had been the crash of AirAsia Flight 8501, which went down in the Java Sea on Dec. 28 after taking off from Surabaya, Indonesia, on its way to Singapore, killing all 158 people on board. Investigators are still trying to determine the cause of that crash. Last year also saw the still-unsolved disappearance in March of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which carried 239 people when it veered thousands of miles off course from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Authorities are still searching for that missing plane in two broad BN-GU313_OBZH68_G_20150204091705areas of the Indian Ocean. The region was also devastated by the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine in July, in territory controlled by pro-Russian separatists.

Air traffic in Asia has increased rapidly in recent years, making it the world’s biggest aviation market, but the growth has been a struggle for some safety regulators, airlines and governments. Over the past five years, the number of passengers carried annually in the Asia-Pacific region has jumped by two-thirds to more than 1 billion, surpassing Europe and North America and accounting for 33% of the global total in 2013. Read the rest of this entry »


Obama Points to Pro-Russia Separatists in Downing of Malaysian Airlines Plane

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WASHINGTON —For the  NY Times and  reporting: President Obama said Friday that the United States believed the Malaysia Airlines jetliner felled over eastern Ukraine was shot down by a surface-to-air missile from an area inside Ukraine controlled by Russian-backed separatists.

Mr. Obama’s remarks at the White House were the strongest public suggestions yet from the United States over who was responsible for the downing of the jetliner, which exploded, crashed and burned on Thursday on farmland in eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people aboard.

Mr. Obama said the loss of life was an “outrage of unspeakable proportions” and a “global tragedy.” He vowed to investigate exactly what happened to end the lives of “men, women, children, infants who had nothing to do with the crisis” in that region. Mr. Obama also said that at least one American was among the dead.

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“We are going to make sure the truth is out,” Mr. Obama said, referring to what he described as a trove of misinformation that has already shrouded the plane crash. Read the rest of this entry »


Global Air Traffic Avoiding Ukraine


BREAKING: Malaysia Airlines Passenger Plane Crashes Near Ukraine Russia Border

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A MALAYSIAN Airlines passenger plane with 295 people has crashed in Ukraine

Daily Express‘s Dion Dassanayake reports: A second Malaysia Airlines plane has crashed today, this time near Russia.

UPDATE: Ukrainian Officials Reports that it was BROUGHT DOWN BY RUSSIAN SURFACE TO AIR MISSILE… developing…

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The Boeing 777 went down near the Russian border according to an aviation industry source.

[Also see – Live Updates: Passenger Jet ‘Crashes In Ukraine’, Buk SAS Missile Attack Suspected]

It is not clear what caused the flight MH17 to crash or if there have been any fatalities.

UPDATE: KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — A Ukrainian official said a passenger plane carrying 295 people was shot down Thursday over a town in the east of the country, and Malaysian Airlines tweeted that it lost contact with one of its flights over Ukrainian airspace.

Anton Gerashenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister, said on his Facebook page the plane was flying at an altitude of 10,000 meters (33,000 feet) when it was hit by a missile fired from a Buk launcher. A similar launcher was seen by Associated Press journalists near the eastern Ukrainian town of Snizhne earlier Thursday. The Buk missile system can fire missiles up to an altitude of 22,000 meters (72,000 feet).

Malaysia Airlines said on its Twitter feed that it “has lost contact of MH17 from Amsterdam. The last known position was over Ukrainian airspace. More details to follow.”

The region has seen severe fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russia separatist rebels in recent days…(read more)

According to Interfax the plane was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. Read the rest of this entry »

11 Al Qaeda-Linked Terrorists Arrested, Questioned over Plane Disappearance

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Reports coming out of the UK, specifically the Daily Mail, shed new light on the missing Malaysia Airways Flight 370. Eleven al Qaeda-linked terrorists are being questioned on their knowledge of the missing plane and there is speculation surrounding more than 2 tonnes of sensitive and unaccounted for cargo.

The suspects were arrested last week in Kuala Lumpur and in the state of Kedahm and, according to the Mail, are members of a new group planning attacks in Muslim nations.

The suspects had been identified by both the FBI and MI6 a​s​ pe​rsons​ of interest and​ are ​reported to be​ members of a new terror group said to be planning bomb attacks in Muslim countries. Read the rest of this entry »


Flight 370: Investigators Try to Recover Files Deleted From Flight Simulator

 Nobody knows exactly what happened to Malaysia Airlines flight 370. This simulator brings you inside what the cockpit would have looked like at the time of disappearance. (CNN image)

Nobody knows exactly what happened to Malaysia Airlines flight 370. This simulator brings you inside what the cockpit would have looked like at the time of disappearance. (CNN image)

(AP) Investigators are trying to restore files deleted last month from the home flight simulator of the pilot aboard the missing Malaysian plane to see if they shed any light on the disappearance, Malaysia’s defense minister said Wednesday.

Hishammuddin Hussein told a news conference that the pilot, Capt. Zaharie Ahmad Shah, is considered innocent until proven guilty of any wrongdoing, and that members of his family are cooperating in the investigation. Files containing records of simulations carried out on the program were deleted Feb. 3, Malaysian police chief Khalid Abu said.

A Chinese relative of passengers aboard a missing Malaysia Airlines plane cries as she holds a banner in front of journalists reading 'We are against the Malaysian government for hiding the truth and delaying the rescue. Release our families unconditionally!"  at a hotel in Sepang, Malaysia, Wednesday, March 19, 2014. Malaysian authorities examined new radar data from Thailand that could potentially give clues on how to retrace the course of the Malaysia Airlines plane that vanished early March 8 with 239 people aboard en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Twenty-six countries are looking for the aircraft as relatives anxiously await news. (AP Photo) MALAYSIA OUT

A Chinese relative of passengers aboard a missing Malaysia Airlines plane cries as she holds a banner in front of journalists reading ‘We are against the Malaysian government for hiding the truth and delaying the rescue. (AP Photo)

Deleting files would not necessarily represent anything unusual, especially if it were to free up memory space, but investigators would want to check the files for any signs of unusual flight paths that could help explain where the missing plane went.

Read the rest of this entry »


Report: Radar Data Indicates Missing Malaysia Plane Deliberately Flown Way Off Course

  Credit: Reuters/US Navy/Seaman Apprentice Carla Ocampo/Handout

Credit: Reuters/US Navy/Seaman Apprentice Carla Ocampo/Handout

Military radar data suggests a Malaysia Airlines jetliner missing for nearly a week was deliberately flown hundreds of miles off course, heightening suspicions of foul play among investigators, sources told Reuters on Friday.

Analysis of the Malaysia data suggests the plane, with 239 people on board, diverted from its intended northeast route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing and flew west instead, using airline flight corridors normally employed for routes to the Middle East and Europe, said sources familiar with investigations into the Boeing 777’s disappearance.

“What we can say is we are looking at sabotage, with hijack still on the cards.”

— Senior Malaysian police official

Two sources said an unidentified aircraft that investigators believe was Flight MH370 was following a route between navigational waypoints when it was last plotted on military radar off the country’s northwest coast.

This indicates that it was either being flown by the pilots or someone with knowledge of those waypoints, the sources said.

Read the rest of this entry »


Report: Chinese Site May Show Debris Images of Missing Malaysian Jet

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Satellite images on a Chinese government website show suspected debris from the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner floating off the southern tip of Vietnam, near the plane’s original flight path, China’s Xinhua News Agency reported Wednesday.

The revelation could provide searchers with a focus that has eluded them since the plane disappeared with 239 people aboard just hours after leaving Kuala Lumpur for Beijing early Saturday. Since then, the search has covered 35,800 square miles (92,600 square kilometers), first east and then west of Malaysia and even expanded toward India on Wednesday.

“There’s too much information and confusion right now. It is very hard for us to decide whether a given piece of information is accurate…We will not give it up as long as there’s still a shred of hope.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang, Beijing

The Chinese sighting, if confirmed, would be closer to where the frantic hunt started.

Read the rest of this entry »


Searchers Report Spotting Plane Debris

A relative of a passenger on Malaysia Airlines flight 370 cries out at a hotel in Beijing. Investigators were struggling to piece together what happened to the flight, which carried 239 people. Feng Li/Getty Images

A relative of a passenger on Malaysia Airlines flight 370 cries out at a hotel in Beijing. Investigators were struggling to piece together what happened to the flight, which carried 239 people. Feng Li/Getty Images

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia A search-and-rescue plane spotted suspected fragments of a missing Malaysian airliner in the first potential breakthrough in the investigation of what happened to the flight after it disappeared early Saturday morning.

The fragments were believed to be a composite inner door and a piece of the plane’s tail, Vietnam’s ministry of information and communication said on its website. The objects were located about 50 miles south-southwest of Tho Chu island.

“Never have I seen an aircraft losing control and losing all communication.”

— Mark Martin of aviation consultancy Martin Consulting

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, carrying 239 passengers and crew, went missing early Saturday morning, local time. WSJ’s Jason Bellini has the latest developments.

Officials released a photograph of one fragment floating in the waterMalaysia Airlines said it had received no confirmation regarding the suspected debris.

The mystery over what happened to Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew members, baffled investigators and airline officials for much of the weekend. Read the rest of this entry »