KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysia on Thursday declared a national day of mourning on August 22 when 16 bodies from Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, downed over eastern Ukraine last month, are set to arrive from the Netherlands.
The government said it would decide next week if the day will also be a public holiday, signalling the closure of public offices and financial markets. Twenty-four of the 43 Malaysians on the flight have been identified by Dutch investigators almost a month after the jetliner carrying 298 people was downed on July 17 suspected to have been hit by a surface-to-air missile.
"The names of the victims will be released on the day they are brought back to Malaysia," Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin told reporters. "As for now, it is a national day of mourning, not a public holiday. We will discuss with the cabinet about this matter." Authorities say that 15 of the 16 bodies to be brought back are those of Malaysians, while the last is a Dutch national, whose remains have been requested to be buried in Malaysia.
At least two Malaysian women on board are known to have been married to Dutch citizens. Of the 43 Malaysians aboard the flight, 15 were crew and two were infants. The plane was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was shot down in a separatist-held area of Ukraine.