U.S.: Separatists Likely Shot Down MH17 By Mistake

U.S. intelligence officials announced Tuesday that they believe Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was accidentally shot down by pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine after misinterpreting radar images.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the separatists misread the radar on a surface-to-air missile launcher given to them by Russia:

The launcher that U.S. officials believe fired the SA-11 heat-seeking missile used a rudimentary radar system that gives an incomplete picture of what is flying above, officials said. Such antiaircraft systems are designed to be linked to other radar that would allow the crew on the ground to distinguish between military and civilian aircraft.

The officials told reporters today that while current evidence would appear to exonerate Russia from any direct involvement in the downing of the plane, they did say Russia was responsible for "creating the conditions" for the attack. More from the Associated Press:

But the officials said they did not know who fired the missile or whether any Russian operatives were present at the missile launch. They were not certain that the missile crew was trained in Russia, although they described a stepped-up campaign in recent weeks by Russia to arm and train the rebels, which they say has continued even after the downing of the commercial jetliner.

The officials said the most likely explanation for why the plane was shot down is that the rebels made a mistake. Separatists previously had shot down 12 Ukrainian military airplanes, the officials said.

"There is not going to be a Perry Mason moment here," one official said.

[Image via AP]