MH17: 65 victims identified

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that the search for body parts at the crash site was being suspended due to escalating violence in the area. Photo / Getty Images
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that the search for body parts at the crash site was being suspended due to escalating violence in the area. Photo / Getty Images

Dutch forensic experts have identified a total of 65 victims of downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, as the last of the team investigating the crash returned from eastern Ukraine.

Forty-two more victims were identified from remains taken from the crash site of the passenger jet, where an operation to recover victims' belongings has been halted because of intensifying clashes between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian separatists.

"Of the victims, 21 were Dutch and the other 21 another nationality," the Justice Ministry said in a statement on Saturday.

"The specific nationalities of the other victims are not being revealed on the request of their countries' embassies," it added.

Forensics investigation co-ordinator Arie de Bruijn said on Friday that around 176 "more or less" complete bodies have arrived in the Netherlands as well as 527 body parts.

"A team of specialists are working around the clock, but again, it could still take months before each victim can be identified," the Dutch government said.

Meanwhile, the last of the Dutch, Australian and Malaysian investigators were leaving Ukraine for the Netherlands, national news agency ANP reported. The final flight of returning police investigators were expected to land at the southern city of Eindhoven late on Saturday night, including the head of the Dutch police mission in Ukraine, Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Wednesday that the search for body parts at the crash site was being suspended due to escalating violence in the area. The Dutch government on Saturday issued a map showing the area in which the experts conducted their search.

Investigators "searched for 20 hours during a six-day period," but according to the map, covered only a small area of the sprawling crash site.

Watch: MH17: OSCE monitors examine wreckage

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"Not all areas have been searched as experts were refused entry or the security risk was too high," the Dutch government said in a statement. Around 800 Ukrainian recovery workers however earlier scoured many of the areas where the international team could not get to, the statement added.

"It was done more professionally than first thought and body parts and personal belongings have been found."

MH17 exploded over insurgent-held east Ukraine on July 17, killing all 298 on board, 193 of them Dutch, with the West accusing Russia-backed separatists of shooting it down.

- AFP

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