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Malaysia to declare day of mourning for MH17 victims

Malaysia will announce a national mourning day for the Malaysia Airlines (MAS) Flight MH17 tragedy once the remains arrive in the country, said Prime Minister Najib Razak.

AMSTERDAM: Some of the 43 Malaysians on board the downed Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight MH17 in Ukraine have been identified by the international investigation team and a further verification is required in a two-week period.

Prime Minister Najib Razak said he had received the information during his visit to a military facility in Hilversum, on Thursday (31 July), where the 226 coffins, some containing victims' bodies and body parts, were undergoing the forensic and Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) process.

He said after the two-week period, the government would know when the repatriation of the Malaysian victims' bodies would be carried out. "When (the bodies) are brought back home, we will have a day of national mourning. The details will be announced when the time comes," he said. Najib was speaking to Malaysian reporters in Amsterdam on Friday before leaving for Kuala Lumpur after a two-day visit to the Netherlands with his wife. 

MH17 was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it went down in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine near the Russian border on July 17. The Boeing 777-200 aircraft which was carrying 298 people - 283 passengers and 15 crew - was believed to have been shot down, but until today no one has claimed responsibility for the heinous act.

Najib said to date, a total of 126 coffins had been examined and undergone the DVI process. He said the process was complex and unique that required three stages of examinations. He said the examination processes were according to international standard and the method was beyond reasonable doubt.

During the process, the international team had to take samples of DNA, dental and fingerprints of the bodies or any one of the methods, if it involved human body parts, said Najib.

Apart from the DVI process, Malaysia and the international investigation team were focusing to enter the crash site in Torez, Ukraine to recover the remnants of the bodies and to take aircraft wreckage for investigation. Najib said the international investigation team led by the Netherlands had recovered the aircraft's debris that was scattered in an area of 9km radius.

"The team needs to reconstruct the wreckage of the plane in order to know what really had happened," he said adding that Malaysia had sent 68 police officers to Ukraine. On the development of the two MH17 black boxes, Najib said the preliminary investigation by the independent body in Britain would be made public "in due time soon".

He said the report would be submitted to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) before it would be made public. "I have been briefed by them but it was inappropriate of me to announce it. Let the independent body announce on the findings," he said. 

When asked how he had coped with two airline tragedies involving MH17 and MH370, which disappeared in the Southern Indian Ocean on March 8, Najib said his prayer to God and strong support from the family helped him through the ups and downs of the crises. "At the end of the day you could only do your best and seek the blessing from Almighty and the backing from my family," he said.

The MH370 aircraft, carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew, was believed to have ended in the southern Indian ocean, west of Perth, Australia, following an unprecedented type of analysis of satellite data by United Kingdom experts. The search operation is still ongoing but there is no trace of the aircraft's remnants being found yet.

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