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Malaysia Airlines Flight Shot Down By Terrorists
(CNN) - A Malaysia Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, was shot down by "terrorists" using the Russian anti-aircraft system Buk, Anton Geraschenko, adviser to Ukraine's minister of internal affairs, told CNN.
The plane was shot down near the town on Torez in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, he said.
The plane was flying 10,000 meters above the ground, he said. Earlier, on his Facebook page, he said 280 passengers and 15 crew members were killed.
Malaysia Airlines confirmed that it lost contact with Flight 17 and that the plane's last known position was over Ukrainian airspace, the airline said on Twitter.
Ukraine pro-Russia rebels say they didn't shoot down the plane and blamed Ukrainian forces, according to The Associated Press.
Ukraine's president denied any military involvement in the crash. "We do not exclude that the plane was shot down and confirm that the Ukraine Armed Forces did not fire at any targets in the sky," Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said, according to his website.
FlightRadar24 showed the plane disappearing near Kremenchuk, Ukraine.
The jet is a Boeing 777, according to Interfax, a Russian news agency.
"We are aware of reports on MH17. We're gathering more information," Boeing said on Twitter.
"I am shocked by reports that an MH plane crashed. We are launching an immediate investigation," Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said in another tweet.
News of the Malaysian plane comes in the same week that Ukrainian officials said a Russian fighter shot down a Ukrainian military transport plane while the aircraft was in in Ukrainian airspace.
The route the Malaysian plane was on, between Kuala Lumpur and the Netherlands, is a common one, CNN aviation safety consultant Mary Schiavo said Thursday. She said that the plane was flying over a troubled area and that close communication with air traffic controllers would be a key necessity.
In hostile or disputed areas, "any alteration from your course, and you can have a problem," she said.
President Barack Obama has been briefed on the situation, said Josh Earnest, White House press secretary.
The president has directed his staff to be in touch with senior Ukrainian officials, Earnest said.
CNN's Richard Quest, an aviation expert, said on air that the incident is "extremely unusual."
"This is in the rare, very rare category for an airliner potentially to be shot down, at altitude, 32,000 feet, simply because of the profile of an aircraft," he said. "You can tell an aircraft, you can see a commercial aircraft. It looks like a commercial aircraft, it squawks a commercial aircraft. So something is absolutely appalling that's gone on here."
Tensions have been high between Ukraine and Russia since street protests forced former pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych from power in February. Russia subsequently annexed Ukraine's southeastern Crimea region, and a pro-Russian separatist rebellion has been raging in Ukraine's eastern Luhansk and Donetsk regions.
Ukrainian forces have been struggling to quell the separatist unrest. Ukraine's government has accused Russia of allowing weapons and military equipment, including tanks, to cross the border illegally into the hands of pro-Russian separatists.
The Pentagon said Wednesday that Russia now has 12,000 troops on the border with Ukraine, as well as some heavy weapons. The troop numbers had fallen to about 1,000 previously from a high of an estimated 40,000 forces earlier this year.
On Thursday, CNN reported that Ukrainian officials said a Russian fighter shot down a Ukrainian jet Wednesday as the jet flew in Ukrainian airspace.
Tensions are high over that incident, separate from the breaking news of the Malaysian flight Thursday.
On top of that, the report of a downed Malaysian flight marks the second time this year that Malaysia Airlines has faced an incident involving a downed plane.