Malaysian airliner crash investigators appeal for missile witnesses

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 30, 2015 9:02 AM

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Dutch prosecutors said on Monday they are looking for witnesses in eastern Ukraine who may have seen a Russian-made BUK rocket being fired at Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, although they added that they have not yet concluded what caused the crash.

The Netherlands is leading an international investigation into the disaster, which killed 298 passengers and crew, two-thirds of them Dutch nationals, on July 17.

Western governments and Kiev, citing intelligence intercepts, have repeatedly blamed pro-Russian rebels. Moscow said the plane was hit by a Ukrainian fighter jet's missile.

Prosecutors said they have gained a "clearer impression" about the BUK-missile theory -- one of four initial scenarios being investigated. They gave no further details.

"Within this scenario, the investigation team is looking for witnesses who can speak about the transportation, personnel and firing of a BUK-missile system in the region of Donbass in eastern Ukraine," a statement issued by the prosecutors said.

"This appeal for witnesses does not mean that police and prosecutors have definitively concluded what caused MH17 to crash," the statement said. "For that, more investigation is needed."

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A video appeal, carrying images of the BUK weapon system on a flatbed truck and audio recordings of intercepted telephone conversations between pro-Russian separatists, was being aired on television and radio and distributed on websites and social media.

Witnesses were called upon to provide information to the joint international investigation, which also includes officials from Belgium, Ukraine, Australia and Malaysia.

(Reporting By Anthony Deutsch)