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MH17: Metal fragments subjected to forensic scrutiny

Dutch forensic investigators probing the loss of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 are examining a number of fragments recovered from casualties and luggage in order to determine their origin.

Some 25 metallic particles have been recovered – out of around 500 traces in total – and are being subjected to tests by the Netherlands Forensic Institute to ascertain whether they came from a weapon or from sections of the Boeing 777.

While the Dutch public prosecutor acknowledges the preliminary findings of the crash inquiry – that a large number of high-energy objects destroyed the aircraft – it says the criminal probe remains a “long-term task”.

“The inquiry has several lines of research and is focusing on different scenarios,” it states, adding that 10 prosecutors and 100 investigators are involved.

Deriving facts supported by “incontrovertible evidence” is a lengthy process, says chief prosecutor Fred Westerbeke, adding that it involves not only providing proof but ruling out alternative explanations.

“Once we know the facts, we want to know who is responsible. If it was not an accident the question over who is at fault must be answered by us.”

The prosecutor’s office says that a vast amount of material has been generated on the Internet, and that a “lot of work” is necessary to “determine the value of what’s been published”.

Westerbeke adds that the investigation is also looking into authenticity of communications purported to involve separatists, apparently intercepted by Ukrainian authorities, following the destruction of MH17 on 17 July.

“It is important to rule out [the possibility] that they have been manipulated or pieced together,” he says.

Dutch police have invited the public to submit MH17 information through a special Internet portal. The prosecutor says it has received 20,000 photographic and 750 video items.

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