Flags flew at half-mast in Malaysia on Friday for a day of mourning as 20 victims of flight MH17 that was shot down in eastern Ukraine arrived home more than a month after the tragedy.
Prime Minister Najib Razak led top Malaysian officials in receiving the bodies and ashes of 20 of 43 Malaysians aboard the downed plane in a sombre ceremony at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
“My prayers go out to the families who are awaiting to receive their loved ones,” Najib tweeted on the eve of the day of mourning.
The remains, flown from Amsterdam aboard a special Malaysia Airlines flight, were the first to be repatriated after MH17 was shot down by a missile on July 17.
Twenty white hearses were lined up on the tarmac as pallbearers in white carried the coffins and urns wrapped in Malaysian flags. Relatives cried and prayed as the coffins were carried one by one to the hearses.
Outside the airport, Malaysia Airlines crew gathered with white flowers for the victims.
Eleven of the sets of remains were passengers while nine were those of crew members of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, which was on the way to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam when it crashed.
A minute’s silence was observed throughout the country after all the remains were transferred to the waiting hearses.
A total of 30 Malaysian citizens have been identified by a multinational team of forensics experts in the Netherlands, where DNA tests were conducted on the remains found at the crash site, Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said.
Hishammuddin said a second batch of remains would be arriving on Sunday. SAPA