August 23, 2014 08:43
Malaysia is observing a day of national mourning as the first remains of 43 of its citizens killed aboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 were returned to Kuala Lumpur.
A chartered flight carrying the bodies and ashes of 20 Malaysians arrived early Friday at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, where a somber ceremony was held.
As top leaders, including Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, looked on, the coffins, draped in Malaysian flags, were carried by teams of eight soldiers to individual hearses.
The government has asked Malaysians to wear black and observe a nationwide minute of silence Friday out of respect for the victims.
All 298 people on board, including 195 Dutch nationals, died when the jet was shot down above eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian rebels are fighting the Kyiv government.
The United States and its allies accuse the Russian-backed separatists of shooting down the plane, though Moscow denies involvement.
Efforts to locate and identify the remains of the passengers have been complicated by ongoing fighting. The remains of 30 Malaysians have so far been identified. More remains will return home soon.
The disaster occurred just four months after another Malaysia Airlines jet, flight MH370, mysteriously disappeared on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
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