By Yuras Karmanau and Dmitry Lovetsky ,AP
ROZSYPNE, Ukraine — Emergency workers, police officers and even off-duty coal miners — dressed in overalls and covered in soot — spread out Friday across the sunflower fields and villages of eastern Ukraine, searching the wreckage of a jetliner shot down as it flew miles above the country’s battlefield.
The attack Thursday afternoon killed 298 people from nearly a dozen nations — including vacationers, students and a large contingent of scientists heading to an AIDS conference in Australia.
U.S. intelligence authorities said a surface-to-air missile brought down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 as it flew from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, but could not say who fired it. The Ukraine government in Kiev, the separatist pro-Russia rebels they are fighting in the east and the Russia government that Ukraine accuses of supporting the rebels all deny shooting the passenger plane down. Moscow also denies backing the rebels.
By midday, 181 bodies had been located, according to emergency workers at the sprawling crash site who were in contact with officials in Kiev.
Ukraine has called for an international probe to determine who attacked the plane and the Unites States has offered to help. But access to the site remained difficult and dangerous. The road from Donetsk, the largest city in the region, to the crash site was marked by five rebel checkpoints Friday, with document checks at each.
Nataliya Bystro, a spokeswoman for Ukraine’s emergency services, said rebel militiamen were interfering with the recovery operation.
Separatist rebels who control the crash site issued conflicting reports Friday about whether they had found the plane’s black boxes or not.
“No black boxes have been found … we hope that experts will track them down and create a picture of what has happened,” said Donetsk separatist leader Aleksandr Borodai.
Yet earlier Friday, an aide to the military leader of Borodai’s group said authorities had recovered eight out of 12 recording devices.