77 Dead in Russian Plane Crash, Wayward Missile the Possible Cause
A Russian Tu-154 airliner en route from Tel Aviv to Siberia that crashed Thursday into the Black Sea off Russia, killing all passengers on board, may have been shot down by a missile mistakenly fired at it during a Ukrainian military exercise, CBS News reported on Thursday.
A Russian spokesman was cited by AFP as saying the crash had been caused by an explosion aboard the plane.
The Russian emergencies ministry, however, did not rule out that the explosion might have been a terrorist attack, Interfax reported.
The official Russian news agency Itar-Tass said that all passengers on board were killed in the crash.
According to the Russian NTV station, all of the passengers aboard the plane were Israelis, while the Tel Aviv-based Haaretz newspaper said that only 51 passengers were Israelis.
The plane went down 190 kilometers south of the Russian city of Sochi, according to AFP.
Turkey dispatched coast guard vessels to the site following news of the crash, the Anatolia news agency reported from Ankara.
The plane crashed 60 nautical miles off Carsamba town in Samsun province in northern Turkey, the report said.
The Air Sibir Airlines plane was carrying 64 passengers and crew, including business people, from Tel Aviv to the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, according to the paper and AFP. The plane is reported to have left Tel Aviv at 9:58am (7:58 GMT).
Israel halted all outgoing flights until further notice, according to Israeli radio.
According to sources, a pilot in the region said he saw the explosion from his plane.
An official at the Russian emergencies ministry told AFP that he had received information from eyewitnesses on board an Armenian airliner that was flying nearby that an explosion occurred on board the Russian jet.
The explosion might have been caused, however, by a technical problem, since the Air Sibir fleet is outdated, sources said.
Israeli sources added that 51 tickets were sold for the flight, and all passengers on board had gone through security measures, indicating that if it had been a terrorist act, the terrorist or terrorists must have boarded the plane in Russia, where it had landed first.
President Vladimir Putin convened an emergency Kremlin meeting following the crash and named the head of the Security Council, Vladimir Rushailo, to head the investigation of the crash, according to AFP - Albawaba.com