49 LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

A solemn entourage of tragedy slowly rolled across the Netherlands for a second day Thursday after military cargo planes arrived with remains from last week's plane disaster in Ukraine.

Dutch officials said 74 containers of bodies and body parts arrived on Thursday's flights. The first group of remains arrived Wednesday.

The Dutch Foreign Ministry said 194 of the 298 people who perished when Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down July 17 were Dutch. Scores of forensic experts have gathered in Hilversum, Netherlands to identify victims.

The plane crashed in rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine, and earlier this week the data and voice "black boxes" were handed over by the rebels. Information from the boxes was successfully downloaded by Britain's Air Accidents Investigation Branch, the Dutch Safety Board said. No details of what the data showed was released.

Twenty-seven of the victims were Australian, and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott continued to press his case for a multinational force to secure the crash site. Australia sent 50 police officers to Europe to join a proposed multinational force to secure the crash site.

Abbott has been holding talks with Ukraine, Russia and other countries aimed at ensuring that a professional investigation takes place and that remaining bodies are recovered. Abbot has proposed a security force manned by Australia, the Netherlands, Malaysia and other countries that lost citizens in the disaster.

"I can report that Operation Bring Them Home is now in full swing," Abbott said Thursday. He said more than 200 Australian personnel are deployed in the effort, including victim identification experts, safety investigators, law enforcement and defense.

"But on the side, it is still clear that nothing is happening without the approval of the armed rebels who most likely brought the plane down in the first place," Abbott said. "There has not been anything like a thorough, professional search of the area where the plane came down."

Senior U.S. intelligence officials said the plane was likely shot down -- probably by mistake -- by an SA-11 surface-to-air missile fired by Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. The U.S. officials cited intercepts, satellite photos and social media postings by separatists, some of which have been authenticated by U.S. experts.

Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov on Thursday dismissed accusations that ethnic-Russian separatists -- or Russians themselves -- shot down the plane, saying that if the U.S. officials had proof "how come they have not been made public?"

Pro-Russian rebels and Ukrainian government troops have been fighting for more than three months, leaving at least 400 dead and displacing tens of thousands of people.

Mourning continued in the Netherlands on Thursday. Police and traffic authorities appealed to the public not to stop on the highway as a convoy of hearses passes on its way from Eindhoven Air Base to Hilversum. On Wednesday, the convoy of hearses passed through roads lined with thousands of members of the public, who applauded, threw flowers or stood in silence as the cars drove by.

Warwick reported from Hravobe, Ukraine; Serenelli from Berlin; Bacon from McLean, Va. Contributing: Associated Press

49 LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE
Read or Share this story: http://usat.ly/1mIQ0Dd