Malaysia Airlines crash: Malaysia calls for 'independent international investigation' into MH17 as denials over shooting down continue

US intelligence sources say the jet was shot down but army and rebels deny involvement

The Malaysian Government has joined calls for an independent international investigation into the downing of flight MH17 as pro-Russian rebels continue to deny shooting it out of the sky.

Responsibility for investigating the crash on Thursday lies with Ukrainian authorities but rebels have also accused the country’s military of firing at the passenger jet.

Speaking at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur on Friday, Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said a disaster team of 62 people was being sent to the crash site.

On reports that the Malaysia Airlines jet had been deliberately shot down, he said: “Malaysia condemns any such action in the strongest possible terms and calls for those responsible to be swiftly brought to justice.”

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He repeatedly denied suggestions that the plane had taken a dangerous route or attempted a shortcut over war-torn eastern Ukraine, saying 15 out of 16 Asian airlines were flying the same route, which had been approved as safe by international aviation authorities.

Some airlines had chosen to avoid the area as fierce fighting between Ukrainian government troops and pro-Russian rebels continued but no official warning had been issued and planes had used the route hours before the crash.

The minister gave the latest breakdown of international casualties as 173 passengers from the Netherlands, 44 Malaysians, 27 Australians, 12 Indonesians, nine Britons, four Germans, four Belgians, three Filipinos, one New Zealander and one Canadian.

Nationalities of the remaining passengers were still being confirmed because they had transferred from previous flights and were not on a log held by Malaysian Airlines.

There were no last minute instructions given to the pilots of MH17 to change the route of the flight, Malaysia Airlines said, and the Boeing 777 had been given a “clean bill of health”.

None of the 298 and crew survived the crash, near the town of Grabovo in eastern Ukraine, which has seen battles between separatist militias and government troops.

Both pro-Russian rebels and the Ukrainian government denied shooting the aircraft down after US authorities said intelligence analysis showed it had been hit by a surface-to-air missile.

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