The remains of at least 15 Malaysians killed when a jetliner was shot down over Ukraine will be returned to their home country this week, the first Malaysian victims of the disaster to be flown home, the country’s defence minister says.
All 298 people on board died when Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down on July 17. The plane was heading to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam and was shot out of the sky over an area of eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russia separatists. The victims included 38 Australian citizens and residents, 43 Malaysians and 195 Dutch nationals.
With fighting between the rebels and Ukrainian forces ongoing near the crash site, victims’ remains were gathered and sent to the Netherlands for identification.
Malaysian Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said on Tuesday that 28 Malaysian victims had been identified so far, including 15 passengers and 13 crew members.
The remains of at least 15 Malaysians and a Dutch national who was married to a Malaysian will arrive in Kuala Lumpur on Friday, Hishammuddin said at a news conference, adding that the exact number to arrive would be known later in the week.
The government has declared Friday a national day of mourning.
Hishammuddin said Malaysia would not be competing with the Netherlands in terms of how the bodies are received. The Netherlands observed a minute’s silence and solemn ceremonies were held when the remains of the victims arrived in the country last month.
Dutch authorities said last week that they had identified 127 victims in all.