Malaysian Airlines (MAS) Flight MH17 crashed after apparently
being struck by a missile over war-torn Ukraine on July 17,
worsening a year of tragedy for the country following the baffling
disappearance of another MAS flight in March.
Flags flew at half mast and newspapers daubed their front pages in
black to honor the 20 victims, among 43 Malaysians who were on the
flight carrying a total of 298 passengers and crew, most of them
Malaysian King Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah and Prime Minister Najib
Razak joined grieving relatives and somber Malaysia Airlines staff
at a ceremony at Kuala Lumpur International Airport to greet the
special flight from Amsterdam that brought home the remains.
"Today we mourn the loss of our people. Today, we begin to bring
them home," Najib said in a statement.
In the multi-ethnic country where tension between different groups
and religions can run high, mourners united in grief with Muslim
ethnic Malays and ethnic Chinese standing side by side and reciting
prayers for the dead.
"We see Malaysians uniting for one cause today. But there is no
absolute closure until the perpetrators are brought to justice,"
said Anthony Loke, an opposition parliamentarian.
Bodies and wreckage from MH17 were strewn across sunflower fields in
the rebel-held region of Donestk for almost a week before the dead
were transported to Amsterdam. Russian-backed rebels are suspected
of shooting down the jetliner in the mistaken belief it was a
Ukrainian military plane.
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Fighting between the pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian forces
has hampered attempts for a swift investigation and the search for
The ceremony on Friday was muted except for the plane's engines as
eight men, dressed in traditional Malay attire, carried each coffin
out. Hearses and helicopters lined up to transport the victims home
The loss of MH17 came just four months after the disappearance of
Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 with 239 people on board. No trace of
that aircraft or its passengers has been found since it went missing
on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
"It has been a tough year but life goes on and we're here to
continually support each other," said an MAS air stewardess in
uniform, holding a white rose.
(Editing by Stuart Grudgings and Robert Birsel)
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