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KL probes terror link in plane mystery

MYSTERY DEBRIS: Unidentified debris in the sea 140 nautical miles north-east of Kota Baru.


    Mar 10, 2014

    KL probes terror link in plane mystery


    TWO people boarded the plane with stolen European passports and their tickets were probably booked together.

    The weather was fine, but the plane disappeared so suddenly that the pilots did not even send out distress signals.

    There are suggestions that it might have tried to turn back.

    And all this comes soon after the mass stabbings in south-western China, for which the authorities blamed Uighur miltants.

    Speculation is rife that a hijack or some form of terrorism could have played a role in MH370's mysterious vanishing act as Malaysia probes a possible terror link.

    The police are investigating four names on the flight manifest of the Malaysia Airlines airliner that vanished with 239 people aboard on its way to China, the transport minister said yesterday.

    Two of the four were using European passports, possibly Ukrainian, while the other two were travelling on stolen Austrian and Italian passports, sources said.

    The tickets of the holders of the stolen passports were sold by China Southern Airlines, which has a code-share agreement with Malaysia Airlines.

    The ticket numbers are contiguous, which indicates the tickets were issued together. CCTV footage of the two passengers is now being examined.

    The tickets were booked to start in Kuala Lumpur, then to Beijing, and onward to Amsterdam, thus eliminating the need for a Chinese visa.

    An over-water disappearance and stolen passports "raised huge red flags", said Mr John Magaw, a security consultant. "Those two things right there are highly, highly, highly suspicious."

    The Chinese authorities, meanwhile, said the passport number of one of the Chinese passengers did not match the name - Zhao Qiwei - on the manifest, The Telegraph reported.

    Malaysian Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, when asked to confirm Malaysian media reports that another two suspect passengers had been identified, said: "All the four names are with me."

    When asked how people could have boarded the plane with stolen passports, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin responded: "This has to be... investigated.

    "We haven't even decided on whether there is a security risk at all. We have to not jump the gun," he said.

    The plane sent out no distress messages, suggesting that what happened to it happened very quickly.

    Weather appeared near-perfect during the flight, and the plane had recently passed inspection, the airline said. Officials are also studying if the plane tried to turn back.

    Mr Hishammuddin confirmed United States media reports that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was dispatching personnel to Malaysia. Asked whether Malaysia believes the plane was hijacked, he said: "We are looking at all possibilities."

    Oil slicks have been spotted on the seas, and a Singapore vessel has spotted debris that could have come from the plane.

    The timing of the incident, a week after knife-wielding assailants killed at least 29 people at a train station in the south-western Chinese city of Kunming, led to speculation that militants from China's Uighur Muslim minority could be involved. But there has been no terrorist claim or other evidence of a hijack or an attack.

    Singapore has sent help, including two warships and a naval helicopter, to aid in the six-country search for the missing plane.