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MH17 bodies arrive in Netherlands


Two jets carrying bodies from crashed Malaysia Airlines plane have landed in the Netherlands where a day of mourning for the 298 victims has been declared.

Experts there will begin to identify the dead, most of whom were Dutch.

Pro-Russian rebels have been widely accused of shooting down the Malaysia Airlines plane on July 17.

UK government sources say intelligence shows rebels deliberately tampered with evidence, moving bodies and placing parts from other planes in the debris.

As fighting continued in eastern Ukraine on Wednesday, officials in Kiev said that two aircraft, thought to be military jets, had been downed just 20 miles from the MH17 crash site.

The officials had no information on the cause of the crashes, or the fate of the pilots.

Planes carrying bodies from crashed MH17 flight have landed in the Netherlands

Planes carrying bodies from crashed MH17 flight have landed in the Netherlands (photo EPA)

US intelligence officials had earlier released evidence to the media that they said showed the separatists’ involvement in bringing down flight MH17.

Rebels have also been accused of exaggerating the number of bodies transported from the crash site to the town of Kharkiv on Tuesday.

They had claimed 282 bodies had been loaded on to a train, but experts said only 200 could be verified.

The two military planes – one Dutch and the other Australian – carrying the first 40 coffins landed at Eindhoven air base to be met by members of the Dutch royal family, PM Mark Rutte and hundreds of victims’ relatives.

Churches around the Netherlands rang their bells for five minutes before the planes landed.

A fleet of hearses was standing by to convey the bodies to the Korporaal van Oudheusden barracks south of the city of Hilversum for identification.

PM Mark Rutte said that process could take months.

Earlier, the coffins had been slowly loaded on to the planes by a military guard of honor at Kharkiv airport in eastern Ukraine.

Ambassadors, officials and soldiers gathered to see off the planes.

Australian government envoy Angus Houston said the ceremony was intended to give the victims the “respect and dignity they deserve” after a “tragedy of unspeakable proportions”.

In a separate process, the “black box” flight-data recorders from MH17 have arrived in the UK, where they will be examined at the headquarters of the Air Accidents Investigation Branch in Farnborough.

A rebel militiaman told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera that he had been ordered to the crash site minutes after the MH17 plane had gone down.

He said his commanders had told him: “We’ve just shot down one of the Kiev fascists’ planes.”

The militiaman said: “We thought we were looking for baled-out Ukrainian pilots but instead we found dead civilians.”

Earlier in Washington, officials from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence presented evidence they had gathered on the involvement of the rebels.

“It’s a solid case that it’s an SA-11 [missile] that was fired from eastern Ukraine under conditions the Russians helped create,” said the officials, who requested that their names not be reported.

They said the “most plausible explanation” for the shooting down of the plane was that rebels mistook it for another aircraft.

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