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.
“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.
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 »
China said on Friday it would not stand for violations of its territorial waters in the name of freedom of navigation, as the United States considers sailing warships close to China’s artificial islands in the South China Sea.
“I simply won’t discuss future operations. With regards to whether we are going to sail within 12 miles, or fly within 12 miles, of any of the reclaimed islands that China has built in the South China Sea, I will reserve that for later.”
— Admiral Harry Harris, Commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific
A U.S. defense official told Reuters on Thursday the United States was considering sending ships to waters inside the 12-nautical-mile zones that China claims as territory around islands it has built in the Spratly chain.
Western media reports quoted U.S. officials as saying the action could take place within a matter of days, but awaited a decision by U.S. President Barack Obama.
“We will never allow any country to violate China’s territorial waters and airspace in the Spratly Islands, in the name of protecting freedom of navigation and overflight.”
— Hua Chunying, China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman
The commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, Admiral Harry Harris, declined to say on Friday whether the United States would carry out the plan. But he made clear it was an option he had presented to Obama and said the United States must carry out freedom of navigation patrols throughout the Asia-Pacific.
“I simply won’t discuss future operations,” Harris told a Washington seminar. “With regards to whether we are going to sail within 12 miles, or fly within 12 miles, of any of the reclaimed islands that China has built in the South China Sea, I will reserve that for later.”
Earlier on Friday, China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying warned against any such patrols.
“We will never allow any country to violate China’s territorial waters and airspace in the Spratly Islands, in the name of protecting freedom of navigation and overflight,” she told a regular news briefing. Read the rest of this entry »
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 »
Some student groups won’t join annual vigil on June 4
HONG KONG— Isabella Steger reports: Every year for a quarter-century, large Hong Kong crowds have commemorated the 1989 crackdown on student protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. This June 4, some young Hong Kongers say they won’t join in.
Much like in Beijing in 1989, student groups were at the forefront of the monthslong pro-democracy protests that paralyzed much of Hong Kong last year and which challenged Beijing on how Hong Kong should elect its leader.
“I feel very sad. It’s a watershed year in my life” she said. “To call the ocean of candlelight ceremonial or perfunctory, it’s just not fair.”
— Claudia Mo, an opposition lawmaker and former journalist who was in Beijing during the 1989 crackdown
Unlike in Beijing, the Hong Kong protests ended peacefully, though with no visible concession from the Chinese government. What the rallies also did was lay bare a growing chasm between old and young over Hong Kong’s identity and relationship with Beijing. That rift is now playing out over the annual Tiananmen vigil, with some student groups saying Hong Kongers should focus on democratic rights in the territory rather than on the mainland.
“Every year it’s the same, we sing the same songs and watch the same videos. For some people, going to the vigil is a bit like clocking in. Should we continue looking back on a historical event, or focus on the more urgent situation here now?”
— Cameron Chan, 20, a social-sciences student at the University of Hong Kong
The University of Hong Kong’s student union will organize its own June 4 event “to reflect on the future of democracy in Hong Kong.” Separately, the Hong Kong Federation of Students, the main group leading last year’s protests, said that for the first time it won’t participate in the vigil as an organization.
“I feel very sad,” said Claudia Mo, an opposition lawmaker and former journalist who was in Beijing during the 1989 crackdown. “It’s a watershed year in my life” she said. “To call the ocean of candlelight ceremonial or perfunctory, it’s just not fair.”
“Going to the vigil is a bit like clocking in.”
—Cameron Chan, University of Hong Kong student
But to Cameron Chan, 20, a social-sciences student at the University of Hong Kong, it is precisely that the annual vigil has become such a fixture that is the problem.
The student group’s decision is baffling to many democracy supporters in the city, who see the annual candlelight vigil in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park to remember the Tiananmen victims as an important civic duty—not least because it’s the only mass commemoration of the event in the Greater China universe.
“I don’t see how Hong Kong can fully divorce itself from democracy movements on the mainland.”
—Joshua Wong, student leader
“I cannot understand [the students’] thinking,” said Jack Choi, a 36-year-old who works in finance and has been going to the vigil on and off since 2000. “It’s two separate issues. Our mother is China, if the mother is not free, how can the child be?” Read the rest of this entry »
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.
“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 »
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.
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.
“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.
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 »
A defense contractor who is the central figure in a wide-ranging Navy bribery scandal pleaded guilty on Thursday to providing cash, prostitutes, free hotel rooms and gifts worth millions of dollars to gain maintenance and supply contracts in Asian ports that overbilled the Navy by $20 million.
In a federal court in San Diego, Leonard Francis, known by his nickname “Fat Leonard,” pleaded guilty to bribery and fraud charges related to a decade-long conspiracy to gain the contracts that he said involved “scores” of U.S. Navy officials. Francis was the CEO of Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA) a Singapore-based company that provided fuel, supplies, tugboats and sewage disposal to U.S. Navy ships when they arrived in ports.
“Francis admitted that he gave millions of dollars in extravagant gifts and expenses to Navy officials including $500,000 in cash; hundreds of thousands of dollars in prostitution services; travel expenses, including first class airfare, luxurious hotel stays and spa treatments.”
Leonard gave the Navy officials lavish gifts to gain classified information about the scheduled movement of U.S. Navy ships in Asia so he could block out competitors and then overbill the Navy for his company’s services, prosecutors said.
“He also provided officials with lavish meals, including Kobe beef, Spanish suckling pigs, Cuban cigars, designer handbags and even tickets to a Lady Gaga concert.”
Francis admitted that he gave millions of dollars in extravagant gifts and expenses to Navy officials including $500,000 in cash; hundreds of thousands of dollars in prostitution services; travel expenses, including first class airfare, luxurious hotel stays and spa treatments. He also provided officials with lavish meals, including Kobe beef, Spanish suckling pigs, Cuban cigars, designer handbags and even tickets to a Lady Gaga concert.
“It is astounding that Leonard Francis was able to purchase the integrity of Navy officials by offering them meaningless material possessions and the satisfaction of selfish indulgences. In sacrificing their honor, these officers helped Francis defraud their country out of tens of millions of dollars. Now they will be held to account.”
— U.S. Attorney Laura E Duffy
When sentenced in April Francis could face up to 25 years in prison. In admitting his guilt he and his company agreed to repay the Navy $35 million. He has been cooperating with investigators and additional Naval officials may be implicated.
So far the investigation has involved eight Navy officials, including a Naval Criminal Services Investigative Services (NCIS) agent who would tip Francis off to ongoing investigations into his conduct.
“He’s relying on the Europeans. The Europeans will never act. They never act on anything unless they’re led by the U.S.”
On Friday’s Special Report, Charles Krauthammer slammed Obama for the “unbelievable, passive nature” of his speech, which addressed the Malaysian airliner catastrophe in Eastern Ukraine. Reacting to yesterday’s news of the shooting down of the civilian plane – almost certainly at the hands of Russian-armed rebels – the president appeared disinterested, and ”practically half asleep.”
That response makes sense only if Obama believes that the events will necessarily go badly for Russia. However, Krauthammer contended, there is no reason to think that is true in the absence of American leadership….(read more) The Corner
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 had been identified by both the FBI and MI6 as persons 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 »
For ABC News, Dan Good reports: New satellite images show a debris field of 122 objects floating in the Indian Ocean potentially connected to doomed Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, officials said at a news conference today.
Malaysia’s Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said the images were taken on Sunday, March 23, about 1,600 miles off the coast of Perth, Australia, and relayed by the France-based Airbus Defense and Space. Authorities received the images Tuesday.
Hishammuddin said the objects were seen close to where three other satellites previously detected objects. The newly-spotted objects vary in size, with the largest about 75 feet in length, Hishammuddin said. Some objects appeared to be bright, possibly indicating solid debris.
“This is another new lead that will help direct the search operation,” he said.
That desperate, multinational search operation resumed today across a remote stretch of the Indian Ocean after fierce winds and high waves that had forced a daylong halt eased considerably.
Six countries were participating in the search — Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Japan, China and South Korea. A total of 12 planes and two ships were involved, with the search area divided into east and west sectors.
(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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Officials released a photograph of one fragment floating in the water. Malaysia 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 »