As tributes poured in for the 298 people who died on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, members of a notorious American church said the crash was a punishment by God.
Less than a day after the tragic incident, the Westboro Baptist Church made a number of posts on its Twitter page regarding the plane crash itself, as well as a group of Aids researchers who were on board the flight.
The Church, founded by the late preacher Fred Phelps, is known for its extreme ideologies - particularly its anti-homosexual stance. Its members often picket the funerals of US service personnel, believing their deaths are God’s punishment for the American government legalising homosexuality.
Alongside a tweet featuring the words “God’s Wrath is Revealed” in flames, the Church posted a link to a page on its website explaining its belief that God caused the crash to gain the attention of the countries whose citizens were on board.
Westboro Baptist (@WBCSays) July 18, 2014
“When God wants your attention, He knows how to get it. @WBCSays [the Westboro Twitter account] warned you that if you refuse to repent of your many whoredoms Dutch, Malaysians, Aussies, Indonesians, Germans, et al. YOU WILL PERISH!” the post read.
A second tweet was a reply to a user who posted a comment made by Canadian HIV researcher, Trevor Stratton. He asked ABC News on Friday: “What if the cure for AIDS was on that flight?”.
Stratton's comments referred to the news that a world-renowned Dutch Aids researcher, Joep Lange, and around 100 other Aids workers were headed to a an Aids conference in Australia when the plane crashed, according to the World Health Organisation.
The Church responded: “No cure for God's curses!”, adding in a separate tweet: "Only Cure=stop sinning! #Repent”.
Twitter users were quick to slam the messages, with Kiki the Chihuhua writing: “@WBCSays there is no cure for you #hate #Westborolostcause #goaway."
Meanwhile, at the scene of the crash in Ukraine, 181 bodies had been recovered from the wreckage by midday, according to emergency workers.
Malaysia Airlines and relevant governments said the passengers included 192 Dutch, 29 Malaysians, 28 Australians, 12 Indonesians, 10 Britons, four Germans, four Belgians, three Vietnamese, three Filipinos and one person each from the US, Canada, New Zealand and Hong Kong.
Malaysia Airlines regional vice president Huib Gorter told reporters at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport the carrier was making an initial payment of $5,000 to families of all victims to cover their immediate costs.
Additional reporting by AP