In one of the most baffling mysteries in recent aviation history,
a massive search operation for the Malaysia Airlines Boeing
777-200ER, now in its fourth day, has so far found no trace of the
aircraft or the 239 passengers and crew.
"It changed course after Kota Bharu and took a lower altitude. It
made it into the Malacca Strait," the military official, who has
been briefed on investigations, told Reuters.
The Strait of Malacca, one of the world's busiest shipping channels,
runs along Malaysia's west coast. The airline said on Saturday that
radio and radar contact with Flight MH370 was lost off the east
coast Malaysian town of Kota Bharu.
Police had earlier said they were investigating whether any
passengers or crew on the plane had personal or psychological
problems that might explain its disappearance, along with the
possibility of a hijack, sabotage or mechanical failure.
The plane left Kuala Lumpur for Beijing early on Saturday morning,
vanishing from civilian radar screens about an hour after take-off
over the sea separating eastern Malaysia from the southern tip of
There was no distress signal or radio contact indicating a problem
and, in the absence of any wreckage or flight data, police have been
left trawling through passenger and crew lists for potential leads.
"Maybe somebody on the flight has bought a huge sum of insurance,
who wants family to gain from it or somebody who has owed somebody
so much money, you know, we are looking at all possibilities,"
Malaysian police chief Khalid Abu Bakar told a news conference.
"We are looking very closely at the video footage taken at the KLIA
(Kuala Lumpur International Airport), we are studying the behavioral
pattern of all the passengers."
The fact that at least two passengers on board had used stolen
passports, confirmed by Interpol, has raised suspicions of foul
play. But Southeast Asia is known as a hub for false documents that
are also used by smugglers, illegal migrants and asylum seekers.
Police chief Khalid said one of the men had been identified as a
19-year-old Iranian, Pouria Nour Mohammad Mehrdad, who appeared to
be an illegal immigrant. The identity of the other was still being
[to top of second column]
"We believe he is not likely to be a member of any terrorist group,
and we believe he was trying to migrate to Germany," Khalid said of
the teenager. His mother was waiting for him in Frankfurt and had
been in contact with authorities, he said.
Asked if that meant he ruled out a hijack, Khalid said: "(We are
giving) same weightage to all (possibilities) until we complete our
Both men entered Malaysia on Feb 28, at least one from Phuket, in
Thailand, eight days before boarding the flight to Beijing,
Malaysian immigration chief Aloyah Mamat told the news conference.
Both held onward reservations to Western Europe.
Police in Thailand, where the passports were stolen and the tickets
used by the two men were booked, said they did not think they were
linked to the disappearance of the plane.
"We haven't ruled it out, but the weight of evidence we're getting
swings against the idea that these men are or were involved in
terrorism," Supachai Puikaewcome, chief of police in the Thai resort
city of Pattaya, told Reuters.
(Additional reporting by, Siva Govindasamy, Stuart Grudgings, Raju
Gopalakrishnan and Yantoultra Ngui in Kuala Lumpur; Ben Blanchard,
Megha Rajagopalan and Adam Rose in Beijing; Nguyen Phuong Linh on
Phu Quoc Island, Mai Nguyen and Martin Petty in Hanoi; Robert Birsel
and Amy Sawitta Lefevre in Bangkok; Alwyn Scott in New York; Tim
Hepher in Paris; Brian Leonal in Singapore; and Mark Hosenball and
Ian Simpson in Washington; writing by Raju Gopalakrishnan; editing
by Alex Richardson)
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.