KUALA LUMPUR - Authorities have positively identified 24 of the 43 Malaysians who were on board Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight MH17 that was shot down in the Ukraine on July 17.
Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said the remaining 19 victims could not be found or have yet to be extracted from the crash site in Donestk. "Forensics in Holland have confirmed that 24 have been identified but only 16, including a Dutch citizen (Malaysian-born), have been cleared to be brought back to Malaysia," he said.
Other DNA tests are still being done on another eight bodies in Amsterdam, according to a source.
Malaysia had announced that August 22 would be a national day for mourning for the MH17 victims, as the bodies of 15 Malaysians are brought home.
The remains of a Dutch victim would also be on the flight as the next of kin had requested that the deceased be buried in Malaysia.
"The families will be flown on a commercial plane from Amsterdam at an earlier time, while the bodies will be flown out on a special flight, a MAS Boeing 747, on August 21. The bodies are expected to arrive at 10am, August 22," said Hishammuddin.
"The Yang di-Pertuan Agong and Cabinet Ministers will be there to pay last respects to the victims. Then the bodies will be split into two groups, the first will be interred and buried in the Federal Territories.
The second group will be flown by the military in two C-130 aircraft and five Nuri helicopters to their respective states to be buried," said Hishammuddin
Hishammuddin told reporters at The Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC) on Sunday morning that leaders of the respective states are expected to greet the bodies upon arrival there.
Each aircraft will only carry one body," said Hishammuddin
He said the remaining Malaysian remains in Holland and those yet to be identified would be brought back at a later time, but would still be given full honours.
"The template would be the same. Maybe it won't be live or have international coverage. And maybe the Agong won't be present but they will be given the same honours. All has been planned," he said.
Hishamuddin urged the nation to set aside differences and to unite on August 22 to pay respects to the returning victims.
On another matter, Hishammuddin said he would be travelling to Perth in the next one or two weeks to oversee the MH370 search operation in the South Indian Ocean.