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Accident or attack? Local expert weighs in on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17

By Kyle Benjamin, kbenjamin@wcyb.com
Published On: Jul 17 2014 10:12:03 PM CDT
Updated On: Jul 18 2014 06:16:05 AM CDT

U.S. Officials believe someone shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. The question now is who?

BRISTOL, Tenn -

U.S. Officials believe someone shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17

The question now is who? Which faction fighting in that part of the Ukraine pulled the trigger? Was it even one of those groups? That answer will be easier to track down than the why.

Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis leads the King Institute for Security and Intelligence Studies at King University in Bristol, Tennessee, and believes the crash of Flight 17 is not an accident.

"You had to have radar capabilities and also the ability to fire a medium to long range missile, a surface to air missile, in order to shoot it down," said Fitsanakis. "So this has to be not only some kind of a weapon system that can do this, but some one who can actually operate it."

The weapon system in question, the Russian designed SA-11 "Gadfly" or "Buk" missile system may be the one that brought down the Boeing 777 with 295 people on board.

"There are a lot of people in Ukraine, both in government and on the pro-Ukranian side of the dispute and also many rebels who have active involvement with the military, knowledge of military weapon systems and background in training on the stuff," said Firsanakis.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said his troops did not fire the missile and calls it an act of terrorism.

"I would like to bring your your attention to the fact that we are not calling it an accident or a disaster, but an act of terror," according to a report by CNN.

U.S. officials are also confirming radar data shows the missile turning and tracking Flight 17 before impact and another radar plot shows a heat signature matching the time of impact.

"Shot down, not an accident. Blown out of the sky. We see reports that there may have been American citizens on board. And, obviously, that's our first concern," said Vice President Joe Biden earlier Thursday.

The U.S. Military has already been tasked with analyzing the radar images to determine where that missile originated.

"There's no question that Russian military intelligence has been funneling weapons into Ukraine since the conflict began, maybe even before that. Vladimir Putin has a lot to answer for," said Fitsanakis. "But I don't think he would be stupid enough to send the rebels advanced weapon systems of the kind of the SA-11."