KUALA LUMPUR, 20 August 2018 – The decades-old remains of 27 fallen soldiers of the New Zealand armed forces were repatriated today following a special ceremony called "Op Te Auraki" (the return) at the Bunga Raya Complex of the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) here.

Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu who was present at the send-off also witnessed the signing ceremony of the official handing-over document. The ceremony was also attended by some 400 members of the Malaysian Armed Forces and a New Zealand armed forces delegation.

A total of 180 members of the Armed Forces Protocol Team took part in the official handing-over of the 27 coffins.

The remains departed KLIA via an Air New Zealand Boeing 787 aircraft and are expected to arrive in Auckland on Tuesday, where they will be handed over to their respective families. Mohamad said Op Te Auraki is a high-value operation for Malaysia.

"This is a milestone in the bilateral defence ties of Malaysia and New Zealand. We honour New Zealand for their contributions to Malaysia’s independence. Mohamad said the remains were of Kiwi soldiers who perished while serving in engagements prior to World War 1 and the Malayan Emergency.

Also on hand were Armed Forces chief Tan Sri Zulkifli Zainal Abidin and New Zealand Chief of Army Peter Kelly.