Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down by Buk missile, investigators conclude

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down by a Buk missile that was fired from eastern Ukraine, investigators have concluded.

Tjibbe Joustra, the chairman of the Dutch Safety Board, said at a press conference that the passenger plane was shot down by a BUK missile of type 9N314M. The missile detonated to the left and above the cockpit, causing the plane to break up in mid-air and crash in eastern Ukraine, killing everyone on board. The report did not address the question of responsibility, which is the subject of a separate, criminal investigation.

The investigative team said the crash could not have been caused by a meteor, technical problems, a bomb, or missile fired from a fighter jet. Additional forensic investigations will be required to determine the exact launch location of the missile that brought down the aircraft.

The Joint Investigation Team (JIT), which is carrying out the criminal investigation, said its findings so far "point in the same direction" as the results announced by the Dutch Safety Board. It also disclosed that a number of "persons of interests" have been identified in the criminal investigation.

"Within the scope of the inquiry certain 'persons of interest' have been identified, who are of importance to the investigation," the Joint Investigation Team said in its statement. It added however that to obtain conclusive criminal evidence, it is also necessary that all other scenarios, including an air-to-air attack, are convincingly ruled out.

Information about the persons of interest was not released.

"The JIT operates according to legally established procedures to arrive at conclusive and convincing evidence that will stand firm in court. The burden of proof in a criminal case is heavier and consequently the criminal investigation is more time-consuming," the team said. "The criminal court will ultimately have to establish that it could have been no other weapon than a BUK and that any alternatives can be ruled out beyond any doubt."

The team continued: "The aspects which are most time-consuming are finding and hearing the many witnesses, as well as the big data-analysis. The inquiry takes place under difficult conditions, especially concerning the gathering of evidence and interviewing witnesses in the relevant area, where an armed conflict is still ongoing."

The examination by the Joint Investigation Team of the debris that was recovered from Ukraine has finished, the team said. Traces from the debris are now being examined and compared by experts, and questions have been presented to experts in many fields and information has been requested from the various security agencies.

The report by the Dutch Safety Board further found that Ukraine had sufficient reason to close the airspace over the eastern part of Ukraine before the shootdown of MH17. "None of the parties involved recognized the risk posed to overflying civil aircraft by the armed conflict in the eastern part of Ukraine," the Dutch Safety Board said.

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 crashed near the city of Torez in eastern Ukraine in July 2014, killing all 298 passengers and crew in the world's deadliest aviation disaster since the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. It was quickly assumed that the aircraft was downed by a surface-to-air missile fired from separatist-controlled territory, though separatists there have denied being responsible.

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