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Missing Malaysia airline might have being hijacked by terrorist group from Iraq

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With lead after lead failing to pan out, search and rescue
officials said Monday they will expand the search area for the
Malaysia Airlines aircraft that vanished three days ago.
The newly expanded search area encompasses a larger portion of the
Gulf of Thailand between Malaysia and Vietnam, said Azharuddin
Abdul Rahman, director general of the Malaysian Civil Aviation
Department.
Nearly three dozen aircraft and 40 ships from 10 countries have so far
failed to find any sign of the aircraft.
An oil slick that searchers had thought might be from the plane turned
out to be fuel oil typically used in cargo ships, according to Rahman.
Other leads — reports that a plane door and its tail had been spotted
— turned out to be untrue, he said at an earlier
briefing.
“Unfortunately, ladies and gentlemen, we have not found
anything that appear to be objects from the aircraft, let
alone the aircraft,” Rahman said at the earlier briefing.
Authorities are sending ships to investigate a report of
debris found south of Hong Kong, but it will likely be
Tuesday before authorities know if there is anything to
those reports, Rahman said.
No emergency signal has been detected by any search
vessel or aircraft. And family members of passengers are
being told to prepare for the worst.
So the mysteries surrounding Malaysia Airlines Flight
370 — and the true identities of some of its passengers
— remain unsolved.
“For the aircraft to go missing just like that … as far as
we are concerned, we are equally puzzled as well,”
Rahman said.
“We have to find the aircraft.”
So far, nothing
Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 took off from Kuala
Lumpur shortly before 1 a.m. Saturday (1 p.m. Friday
ET). The Boeing 777-200ER, carrying 227
passengers and 12 crew members, went missing while
flying to Beijing.
Since then, teams of searchers from Vietnam, China,
Singapore, Indonesia, the United States, Thailand,
Australia, the Philippines and New Zealand have been
working alongside Malaysians to scour the Gulf of
Thailand, part of the South China Sea that lies between several
Southeast Asian countries.
The focus has now shifted to the Andaman Sea, near Thailand’s
border, after radar data indicated the plane may have turned around
to head back to Kuala Lumpur.
But the pilot apparently gave no signal to authorities that he was
turning around.
From 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., planes flew over the vast waters. Ships
searched through the night.
The stolen passports
It is perplexing enough that a jetliner seemed to have
vanished without a trace. Adding to the mystery is the
news that at least two people on board were traveling
on passports stolen from an Austrian and an Italian.
Malaysian officials have shared with the U.S.
government the images and biometrics of the men
believed to have used stolen passports to board the flight,
a U.S. intelligence official told CNN’s Jim Sciutto.
According to Thai police officials, an Iranian man by
the name of Kazem Ali purchased the tickets for two
friends who he said wanted to return home to Europe.
While Ali made the initial booking by telephone, either
Ali or someone acting on his behalf paid for the tickets
in cash, according to police.
Rahman said Monday that authorities have reviewed
security footage from the airport and said the men who
traveled on the stolen passports “are not Asian-looking men.”
Interpol tweeted Sunday it was examining additional “suspect
#passports.”
“Whilst it is too soon to speculate about any connection between these
stolen passports and the missing plane, it is clearly of great concern
that any passenger was able to board an international flight using a
stolen passport listed in INTERPOL’s databases,” said Interpol
Secretary General Ronald K. Noble in a statement.
The passports were reportedly stolen in Thailand, and Thai Prime
Minister Yingluck Shinawatra told CNN’s “Amanpour” on Monday
that police are investigating.
“Initially we don’t know about their nationality yet,” she said. “But
we gave orders for the police to investigate the passport users.
Because this is very important to Thailand, to give full cooperation to
Interpol in the investigation about the passport users. We are now
following this.
Terrorism concern
The passport mystery raised concerns about the possibility of
terrorism, but officials cautioned that it was still too early to arrive at
any conclusions.
One possible explanation for the use of the stolen passports is illegal
immigration.
There are previous cases of illegal immigrants using fake passports to
try to enter Western countries. And Southeast Asia is known to be a
booming market for stolen passports.
Five passengers ended up not boarding the aircraft. Their bags were
removed and were not on board the jet when it disappeared, Rahman
said at Monday’s briefing.
Could the plane have been hijacked? “We are looking at every angle,
every aspect,” Rahman said.
“We are looking at every inch of the sea.”
There has been some speculation that the flight might have been a test
run for a terrorist organization planning a later attack.
The incident has some similarities to such incidents in the past, such as
the 1994 bombing of a Philippine jetliner that investigators later
learned was a test run for a wider plot to bomb numerous airliners,
former U.S. Department of transportation Inspector General Mary
Schiavo told CNN on Monday.
But John Magaw, a former Transportation Security Administration
official and U.S. Secret Service director, said his best guess is the
Malaysia Alrlines flight was not a test.
“They’ve already done the dry run,” he said. “This was the actual
flight.”
Agonizing wait
For the relatives of the 227 passengers and 12 crew members, the
wait has been agonizing.
Among the passengers, 154 people were from China or Taiwan. The
plane was also carrying 38 Malaysians, five Indians and three
Americans citizens. Five of the passengers were younger than 5 years
old.
In Beijing, family members gathered in a conference room at a hotel
complex.
More than 100 people signed a hand-written petition that demanded
“truth” from the airline. They also urged the Chinese government to
help them deal with Malaysian authorities.
Malaysia Airlines, which was helping family members apply for
expedited passports, said it will fly out five relatives of each passenger
to Kuala Lumpur.
A fuller picture of what happened may not become available until
searchers find the plane and its flight data recorder.
And so far, that hasn’t happened.
Source :CNN

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