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Passengers with stolen passports on board Malaysia Airlines flight
Two passengers who boarded the missing Malaysia Airlines flight
early on Saturday morning were not who they represented to be.
Foreign ministry officials in Italy and Austria have confirmed
the nationals named as having being on board are in fact alive
and well, and accounted for in their own countries.
A common denominator between the two is that both have recently
had their passports stolen.
While nothing had been ruled out when the aircraft first
disappeared over the South China Sea two hours after take-off
from Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 12:41am on Saturday,
a major focal point for investigators is now the identity of the
two passengers and whether the plane has been targeted as a
terrorist attack. It should be stressed however that at this
point there is no evidence the identity theft of any passengers
are linked to the plane's disappearance.
"We are looking at all possibilities, but it is too early to
make any conclusive remarks," Malaysian Prime Minister Najib
Razak told a press conference on Saturday night when asked
whether terrorism was suspected.
U.S. officials are also looking at the possibility of terrorism.
"We are aware of the reporting on the two stolen passports. We
have not determined a nexus to terrorism yet, although it's
still very early, and that's by no means definitive," an
official was quoted on NBC as saying.
Italian Louis Maraldi, 37, from Cesena, who was listed as a
passenger on the plane has confirmed he was not on board. His
passport was stolen in August last year. The Italian Foreign
Ministry has confirmed the report.
Austrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Weiss without
identifying the concerned passenger said the Austrian reported
to have been on board the Malaysia Airlines flight was not in
fact on board. His passport was stolen two years ago.
Meantime late Saturday a Vietnamese search plane reported oil
slicks several miles long have been seen about 90 miles south of
Tho Chu Island. Vietnam's official news agency is reporting that
it is believed the slicks are from the missing airliner.
239 passengers were on board the plane, Malaysia Airlines flight
MH370, which was bound for Beijing.
Air traffic controllers lost contact with the plane at
approximately 2:41am Malaysian time Saturday. Airline officials
made it clear they had no clue as to the whereabouts of the
plane or what had caused it to stop communicating.
Fears were held the plane, a Boeing 777-200, had met with an
instant, catastrophic event, which would have prevented the crew
from getting off a distress call.
A massive search involving maritime vessels and civil and
military aircraft from Malaysia, Indonesia, China, Vietnam, and
Singapore swung into action early Saturday morning. Seven ships
and 17 aircraft scoured parts of the South China Sea throughout
Saturday. While the aircraft ceased searching when nightfall
fell, the ships continued the search through the night. Planes
were expected to be back in the air at first light Sunday.
Malaysia Airlines has stepped up its concern for families and
friends of the 239 passengers and crew on board. "We are
dispatching all information as and when we receive it. The
situation in Beijing is also being monitored closely. As many
families of passengers are in China, we have deployed our "Go
Team" to Beijing with a team of caregivers and volunteers to
assist the family members of the passengers," the airline said
in a statement in the early hours of Sunday morning.
"Immediate families of passengers are advised to gather at Kuala
Lumpur International Airport. Travel arrangements and expenses
will be borne by Malaysia Airlines. Once, the whereabouts of the
aircraft is determined, Malaysia Airlines will fly members of
the family to the location."
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