One American Among Malaysia Airline Victims

By: The Associated Press Email
By: The Associated Press Email
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President Obama says one American was among the 298 people killed when Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine Thursday en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

Mr. Obama said Friday the airliner was brought down by a surface-to-air missile in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatists. The president called it a global tragedy in remarks from the White House, one day after the plane crashed. He is calling for a credible international investigation.

The jet was shot down near the border between Ukraine and Russia. The victims include international passengers from all walks of life, including a prominent AIDS researcher, a florist and a nun.

Several passengers were traveling to Melbourne, Australia for the 20th International AIDS conference that starts on Sunday. The Academic Medical Center hospital in Amsterdam said two of its staff, including renowned AIDS researcher Joep Lange, a former president of the International AIDS Society, are believed to have died.

Students at an Australian Catholic school gathered Friday for a special prayer meeting after it was confirmed that a 77-year-old teacher, Sister Philomene Tiernan, had been killed.

In the close-knit fishing town of Volendam near the Dutch capital, flowers were laid outside a florist's shop. The owner and her boyfriend were believed to be among the victims.

A Malaysia Airlines vice president says 189 of the passengers were Dutch. There were also 29 Malaysians, 28 Australians, 12 Indonesians and nine from the United Kingdom. The passengers also included four each from Germany and Belgium, three from the Philippines and one each from Canada, New Zealand and Hong Kong.

A Ukrainian official said 181 bodies have been recovered. Ukraine Foreign Ministry representative Andriy Sybiga cited local emergency workers at the site for the numbers. He said the bodies will be taken to Kharkiv, a government-controlled city 270 kilometers (170 miles) north of the crash site, for identification.

A pro-Russia rebel leader says no black boxes have been found in the scattered wreckage, conflicting with a statement made by an aide to a rebel military leader. Separatist leader Aleksandr Borodai says "no black boxes have been found. We hope that experts will track them down and create a picture of what has happened."

Earlier Friday, an aide to rebel military leader Igor Girkin, a Russian better known by his assumed name Strelkov, said authorities had recovered eight out of 12 recording devices.

Russian President Vladmir Putin says Ukraine bears responsibility for the crash. A Kremlin statement said Putin opened a meeting with his economic advisers by calling for a moment of silence over the crash. "This tragedy would not have happened if there were peace on this land, if the military actions had not been renewed in southeast Ukraine. And certainly the state over whose territory this occurred bears responsibility for this awful tragedy."

Putin says all parties in the conflict in eastern Ukraine should lay down the arms and engage in talks as soon as possible. Putin said "peace in Ukraine must prevail as soon as possible" and called for direct talks between Kiev and pro-Russian insurgents.

Separatist rebels and Ukrainian government forces have been fighting each other for three months now, killing more than 400 people and displacing tens of thousands.

Russia's ambassador to the U.N. has questioned why Ukrainian aviation authorities allowed a passenger flight through an area of armed clashes where anti-aircraft systems were working. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin was speaking at an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Friday. He said there should be an impartial and open investigation into what happened and the outcome should not be prejudged. Churkin said ensuring the security of civilian aviation in a state's airspace is the responsibility of that state.

Earlier, U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said the U.S. believes the plane was likely downed by an SA-11 missile fired from an area in eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian separatists.

This was the second tragedy to hit Malaysia Airlines this year. Flight 370 disappeared March 8th while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. It has not been found, but the search has been concentrated in the Indian Ocean west of Australia.

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