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Stolen passports spark terror fears for missing Malaysian Airlines flight

  • Published by Ozgur Tore

Foreign ministry officials in Rome and Vienna confirmed Saturday that names of two nationals listed on the manifest of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight match passports reported stolen in Thailand.

Malaysia Airlines MH370 Boeing 777-200ER was en route from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Beijing when it lost contact with air traffic controllers around 2:40 a.m. local time Saturday, two hours after takeoff.

The flight was carrying a total number of 239 passengers and crew – comprising 227 passengers (including 2 infants) and 12 crew members.

mh370

A massive international sea search has so far turned up no trace of the plane, which lost contact with the ground when the weather was fine, the plane was already cruising and the pilots didn't send a distress signal.

Since pilots didn’t send a signal, aviation experts assume that whatever happened was quick and left the pilots no time to place a distress call.

If there was a minor mechanical failure — or even something more serious like the shutdown of both of the plane's engines — the pilots likely would have had time to radio for help. The lack of a call "suggests something very sudden and very violent happened," said William Waldock, who teaches accident investigation at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott.

It initially appears that there was either an abrupt breakup of the plane or something that led it into a quick, steep dive. Some experts even suggested an act of terrorism or a pilot purposely crashing the jet. And at least two passengers who boarded the flight with stolen passports increase the probability of a terrorism act.

The father of the Italian man who is listed on the manifest of MH370 flight told The Associated Press that his son's passport had been stolen about a year and a half ago while traveling in Thailand. Similarly, Austrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Weiss confirmed that a name listed on the manifest matches an Austrian passport reported stolen two years ago in Thailand. Authorities were checking on the suspect identities of at least two passengers who appear to have boarded with stolen passports. Those two people who traveled under the passports of an Italian and an Austrian citizen appear to have bought their tickets together. The tickets were bought from China Southern Airlines in Thai baht at identical prices, according to China's official e-ticket verification system Travelsky. The ticket numbers are contiguous, which indicates the tickets were issued together.

The sudden disappearance of the plane that experts say is consistent with a possible onboard explosion, strengthened existing concerns about terrorism as a possible cause for the disappearance. Al-Qaida militants have used similar tactics to try and disguise their identities.

The plane was last inspected 10 days ago and found to be "in proper condition," Ignatius Ong, CEO of Malaysia Airlines subsidiary Firefly airlines, said at a news conference.
Source: News Agencies

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