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Shot that downed Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 came from separatist territory: Obama

WATCH:  U.S. President Barack Obama said the Malaysian Airlines plane was hit by a missile fired from territory held by Russian-backed rebels. He didn’t blame Vladimir Putin, but the case is being built. Mike Armstrong reports from Kyiv, Ukraine.

LATEST UPDATES: 

  • Canadian victim identified as 24-year-old Andrei Anghel from Ajax, Ont.
  • Canadian government calls the shooting down of MH17 a “brutal act of terror”
  • Friends and relatives looking for information on Canadians known to be on board Flight MH17 should contact Foreign Affairs’ Emergency Watch and Response Centre at 1-800-387-3124 or sos@international.gc.ca
  • More than 180 bodies recovered at crash site, total number of passengers at 298
  • World leaders call for immediate cease-fire in the region

TORONTO and ROZSYPNE, Ukraine – The surface-to-air missile that shot down a Malaysia Airlines jetliner came from pro-Russian separatist territory in eastern Ukraine, President Barack Obama said in a noon press conference Friday.

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All 298 people on board the flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur were killed, including one Canadian – Ajax, Ont. 24-year-old Andrei Anghel, who was on vacation from his medical studies in Romania.

READ MORE: Who are the victims of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17?

After visiting the family of Anghel, Canada’s Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander called the shoot-down a “brutal act of terror.” He said Canada condemns the attack, and condemns Russia’s “unjustified illegal aggression” in Ukraine, adding that it’s “certainly relevant” the attack took place over contested Ukrainian territory held by pro-Russia separatist rebels.

World leaders called for an immediate cease-fire in the region and demanded speedy access for international investigators to the crash site. After holding an emergency session, the U.N. Security Council called for “a full, thorough and independent international investigation” into the downing of the plane.

READ MORE: World leaders call Malaysian Airlines MH17 crash ‘an outrage’

The United States cannot rule out assistance from Russia in the launch of the fatal missile, U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power told an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Friday.

Obama said officials couldn’t identify specifically which group ordered the plane shot down, but they know where the missile came from.

“We have confidence in saying that shot was taken within a territory that’s controlled by the Russian separatists,” Obama said.

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He said there was one dual-American citizen on board the plane.

Victims were from nearly a dozen nations – including vacationers, students and a large contingent of scientists heading to an AIDS conference in Australia.

At least 189 of the victims were from the Netherlands. People on the plane also included 44 Malaysians (including 15 crew and two infants), 27 Australians, 12 Indonesians (including one infant), 9 Britons, four Germans, four Belgians, three Filipinos and one person each from Canada, New Zealand and Hong Kong, according to the airlines and those governments. Vietnam’s U.N. ambassador said three unidentified victims were Vietnamese. (Dual citizenship may account for a total greater than 298).

READ MORE: Australian woman loses family in both Malaysian flight disasters

Before boarding, Dutch passenger Cor Pan posted a photo of the plane on Facebook, joking, “If it disappears, this is what it looks like” – an apparent reference to missing  Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

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The Ukraine government in Kyiv, separatist pro-Russia rebels and the Russian government all deny shooting the passenger plane down. Moscow also denies backing the rebels.

AUDIO: ‘We have just shot down a plane’

VIDEO GALLERY:  

PHOTOS: Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 crashes in Ukraine 

By midday Friday, 181 bodies had been located, according to emergency workers combing through the sprawling crash site.

A commission of around 30 people, mostly officials representing the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, travelled to the crash site Friday afternoon in the first such visit there by an international delegation.

No black boxes have been found … we hope that experts will track them down and create a picture of what has happened,” Donetsk separatist leader Aleksandr Borodai said.

READ MORE: Will loss of black boxes hinder MH17 investigation?

Yet earlier Friday, an aide to the military leader of Borodai’s group said authorities had recovered eight out of 12 recording devices. Since planes usually have two black boxes – one for recording flight data and the other for recording cockpit voices – it was not clear what the aide was referring to. It was possible he was referring to a variety of computer systems.

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The crash site was spread out over fields between two villages in eastern Ukraine – Rozsypne and Hrabove – and fighting between the government and separatist groups apparently continued nearby.

WATCH: A computer rendering of the surface-to-air rocket strike which is suspected to have brought down MH17 Thursday

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Ukraine was responsible for the unrest in its Russian-speaking eastern regions but stopped short of accusing Ukraine of shooting the plane down and did not address the key question of whether Russia gave the rebels the powerful missile they’d have needed to do it.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk called the downing as an “international crime” whose perpetrators would have to be punished in an international tribunal.

WATCH: President Obama calls MH17 downing “a global tragedy”

Flight route approved, but many airlines avoiding area

Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lay repeatedly insisted that the airline’s path was an internationally approved route and denied accusations that Malaysia Airlines was trying to save fuel and money by taking a more direct flight path across Ukraine.

READ MORE: Malaysia Airlines to change route for planes flying to Europe

Malaysia’s prime minister said there was no distress call before the plane went down.

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Within hours of the crash Thursday, several airlines announced they were avoiding parts of Ukrainian airspace. Air Canada said it has been “proactively avoiding airspace over the region for some time already” and didn’t foresee any impact on its passengers.

Intercepted phone conversations

Ukraine’s security services have produced what they say are two intercepted telephone conversations that they claim shows rebels are responsible for downing the plane.

MH17 Plane Route
Global News
Flight MH17 crash map
Map of the crash site. Global News

In the first call, security services say rebel commander Igor Bezler tells a Russian military intelligence officer that rebel forces shot down a plane. In the second, two rebel fighters – one of them at the scene of the crash – say the rocket attack was carried out by a unit of insurgents about 25 kilometres north of the crash site.

WATCH: Ukrainian authorities release audio recordings they say show rebels shot down MH17

PHOTOS: Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 crashes in Ukraine

Anton Gerashenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister, said the plane was flying at about 10,000 metres when it was hit by a missile from a Buk launcher, which can fire up to an altitude of 22,000 metres.

Igor Sutyagin, a research fellow in Russian studies at the Royal United Services Institute, said both Ukrainian and Russian forces have SA-17 missile systems – also known as Buk ground-to-air launcher systems.

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He said Russia had supplied separatist rebels with military hardware but he had seen no evidence “of the transfer of that type of system from Russia.” The weapons the rebels are known to have lack the capacity to reach beyond 4,500 metres.

Buk missile
A file photo of the Russian air defence missile system Buk M2, seen at a military show outside Moscow on June 30, 2010. It’s still unknown if this type of missile system was used to shoot down Flight MH17. AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel

The Boeing plane departed Amsterdam July 17 at 12 p.m. local time, scheduled to arrive in Kuala Lumpur at 6:10 a.m.  It was a Boeing 777-200ER, which was delivered to Malaysia Airlines on July 30, 1997, according to Flightglobal’s Ascend Online Fleets, which sells and tracks information about aircraft. It has more than 43,000 hours of flight time and 6,950 takeoffs and landings.