Monday, March 10, 2014

Stolen Passports Deepen Mystery Surrounding Missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370

At LAT, "Malaysian flight leaves trail of anguish, mystery":

Despite the efforts of some 40 boats and three dozen planes, the three-day search for the missing Boeing 777 off the southern coast of Vietnam has yielded nothing but dashed hopes for the friends and family members of the 239 people aboard. By Monday evening, Malaysian and Vietnamese authorities said they had yet to find anything linked to the airliner and that the search area was being expanded and the operation “intensified.”

With no material evidence from the aircraft, however, attention was focused on the fact that two passengers had used stolen passports, one Italian, one Austrian, to board the plane.

Malaysian authorities, who said earlier that they had closed-circuit video recordings of the passengers, revealed Monday that they had identified one of the two men who used the passports.

“I can confirm that he is not a Malaysian, but cannot divulge which country he is from yet,” Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar told the Star, a major Malaysian newspaper. He added that the man is also not from Xinjiang, China -- a northwestern province of the mainland that is home to minority Uighurs.

Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, Malaysia's civil aviation chief, said the two men were “not Asian-looking men.”

That dampened speculation that Uighur separatists might have been behind the jet’s disappearance. Uighur separatists have been blamed for a knifing rampage in southwestern China this month that left 29 dead.

Security authorities have cautioned that use of stolen or forged passports is more frequent than commonly assumed and does not necessarily indicate that terrorist forces might have been involved in the plane’s disappearance.
Also at NYT, "Use of Stolen Passports on Missing Malaysian Airliner Highlights Air Security Flaw." And at CBS News, "No evidence of terrorism in Malaysia Airlines plane's disappearance."