Victims aboard downed Malayasia plane may include top AIDS researchers

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UKRAINE (PIX11/CNN/AP)-- As leaders for both Ukraine and Russia continue to exchange blame for the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, officials are still determining the identities of the 298 people -- now presumed dead -- who were on board.

The plane was apparently shot down, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said Thursday.

Malaysia Airlines gave a breakdown of the known nationalities of the 283 passengers: 154 were Dutch, 28 were Australians, 28 were Malaysians, 12 were Indonesian, nine were from the United Kingdom, four were from Germany; four were from Belgium, three were from the Philippines, one was Canadian and one was from Hong Kong.

The 15 crew members on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 were all Malaysian nationals, officials said.

The International AIDS Society said in a statement that "a number" of its members were on the plane on the way to attend a conference in Melbourne, Australia.

"At this incredibly sad and sensitive time, the IAS stands with our international family and sends condolences to the loved ones of those who have been lost to this tragedy," the statement said.

The World Health Organization says its spokesman Glenn Thomas was on board the Malaysian jetliner that was shot down over Ukraine. Gregory Hartl, a spokesman for the Geneva-based U.N. health agency, says the 49-year-old Briton was traveling to Melbourne, Australia, to attend the 20th International AIDS conference, which starts Sunday.

Malaysia will "give full support" to the families of those lost, Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said Friday in Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia's Prime Minister has spoken to the Dutch President and Prime Minister, he said. Malaysia Airlines is also sending 40 staff to Amsterdam to help the passengers' next-of-kin, he said.

The United States has not said whether its citizens were among passengers aboard, but the diversity of the victims' nationalities turned the crash into a global tragedy.

International inspectors headed to the crash site Friday to search for the flight data recorders among human remains and debris.

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