Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said on Thursday that it might take “weeks or months” before remains of his compatriots who perished in the shooting down of a Malaysian airliner over Ukraine can be brought home.
Malaysia, a majority Muslim country, had initially sought to have the remains returned by July 28 for Hari Raya, also known as Eid al-Fitr, the festival marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.
Forty-three Malaysians died aboard flight MH17 operating from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, including 15 crew. There were 193 Dutch nationals among the 298 people on board.
“We cannot avoid a very painstaking process. This is both the technical requirement and the legal requirement,” Najib told reporters after signing a condolences book at the Dutch embassy. “Therefore it is highly unlikely that the bodies can be brought back in time for Hari Raya.”
Two aircraft carrying remains of some of the passengers arrived in the Netherlands on Wednesday, where experts will work to identify them with DNA samples collected from relatives. The process could take months.
The remains of the victims will be brought over the next few days to a military base in the Dutch town of Hilversum.