Malaysia Airlines plane missing: Stolen passports raise suspicions of terrorism

Malaysia Airlines plane, flight MH370, disappeared from radar suddenly on Saturday night. Two passengers listed on the Malaysia Airlines plane reported their passports stolen. Are the stolen passports indicative of a terrorist act?

Ng Han Guan/AP
A woman cries at the arrival hall of the International Airport in Beijing, China, Saturday, March 8. Relatives and friends were arriving at Beijing airport for news after a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 was reported missing on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing Saturday.

Two of the passengers reportedly listed on board Malaysia Airlines MH370 – which disappeared Saturday – are not on the flight. Both say their passports were stolen.

Italian Luigi Maraldi and Austrian Christian Kozel have confirmed that they were not on the flight. Both also reported their passports stolen.

Austria’s foreign ministry spokesman, Martin Weiss, told media outlets on Saturday that the Austrian citizen - without naming Kozel – was safely living in Austria and had his passport stolen two years ago during a visit to Thailand.

Mr. Maraldi has told media outlets that his passport was stolen a year ago. The Guardian reports that the Italian embassy in Bangkok, Thailand, told its reporter that Luigi Maraldi is an Italian national living in Phuket who was recently given a new passport but did not get on the flight.

The stolen passports may be indicative that the Boeing 777 was infiltrated by terrorists or criminals. It's a thin thread of evidence and it may be premature to leap to such a conclusion. 

But the sudden disappearance of the aircraft off radar screens, with no radio contact or mayday call, also indicates that whatever brought the aircraft down occurred quickly.

Malaysia Air Traffic Control said that it lost radar contact with the plane when it was 120 nautical miles off the coast of Kota Baru, Malaysia, and was reported missing at 2.40 a.m. Saturday, two hours after take-off, reports the Malay Mail. 

The plane "lost all contact and radar signal one minute before it entered Vietnam's air traffic control," at 1:30 a.m. Lt. Gen. Vo Van Tuan, deputy chief of staff of the Vietnamese army, said in a statement.

The Malay Mail reports that Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Aziz Kaprawi acknowledged the news report on the Italian’s allegedly stolen passport and said the authorities are now investigating the possibility of foul play.  “The information is still under review,” he said.
Malaysia's Department of Civil Aviation’s director-general Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said that airport authorities are now examining security footage of the passengers and the baggage.

Asked whether terrorism was suspected, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said, "We are looking at all possibilities, but it is too early to make any conclusive remarks."

Two large oil slicks have been spotted off the southern tip of Vietnam by the Vietnamese Air Force aircraft searching for the downed Boeing 777.

The oil slicks were each between 10 kilometers (6 miles) and 15 kilometers (9 miles) long, the Vietnamese government said in a statement. There was no confirmation that the slicks were related to the missing plane, but the statement said they were consistent with the kinds that would be produced by the two fuel tanks of a crashed jetliner, reported The Associated Press.

Two-thirds of the 239 people on board were from China, while others were from elsewhere in Asia, North America and Europe. Three Americans were reportedly on the passenger list.

Search and rescue efforts continue.

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