MH17 dead to be flown to Netherlands

By BBC

The Netherlands is holding a day of mourning for the 298 killed in the 17 July crash, 193 of whom were Dutch

The first bodies recovered from the Malaysia Airlines plane that crashed in Ukraine last week are to be flown to the Netherlands for identification.

The Netherlands is holding a day of mourning for the 298 killed in the 17 July crash, 193 of whom were Dutch.

Meanwhile, US intelligence officials say pro-Russian rebels shot down the jet by mistake, but they have not found any direct link to Russia.

The plane crashed in a rebel-held area after apparently being hit by a rocket.

A refrigerated train carriage carrying around 200 bodies from the crash site arrived in the government-held city of Kharkiv on Tuesday.

The operation to find the remaining bodies and secure crucial evidence continues.

The first bodies from flight MH17 are due to arrive in Eindhoven at 16:00 local time (14:00 GMT) after a farewell ceremony attended by Ukrainian officials in Kharkiv.

Members of the Dutch royal family and the Prime Minister Mark Rutte will meet the plane.

The bodies are then due to be taken to the Korporaal van Oudheusden barracks for identification.

Mr Rutte said that process could take months.

In a separate process, the “black box” flight-data recorders from MH17 have been handed to Dutch authorities by Malaysian officials.

The devices will be sent to Farnborough in the UK for analysis.

Unidentified US intelligence officials told a news conference on Tuesday that the “most plausible explanation” for the shooting down of the plane was that rebels mistook it for another aircraft.

“Five days into it, it does appear to be a mistake,” one of the officials said.

They went on to say that Russia was responsible for creating the conditions that led to the crash.

“It’s a solid case that it’s an SA-11 [missile] that was fired from eastern Ukraine under conditions the Russians helped create,” one official said.

However, there was no direct evidence of direct Russian involvement in the firing of the SA-11 surface-to-air missile believed to have caused the crash, the officials said.

Nor did the US know that the Ukrainian rebels possessed SA-11 missiles until after the plane was shot down.

The officials said that their findings were based in part on social media postings and an audio recording released in recent days.

The US and other nations have accused rebels of blocking access to the crash site, putting valuable evidence at risk.

In Australia, former American President Bill Clinton paid tribute to six HIV/Aids campaigners who were on board MH17.

He said their lives had been “overpowering in their contribution to a shared future”.

Meanwhile, the conflict between Ukrainian government forces and rebels has continued, with reports of fighting near Donetsk and Luhansk.

Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said on Tuesday the army had captured the town of Severodonetsk, 140km (90 miles) from the rebel stronghold of Donetsk.

The fighting in eastern Ukraine erupted in April and is believed to have claimed more than 1,000 lives.