U.S. Investigates Possible Terror Links in Malaysian Air Flight, Mystery Continues
Five Failed to Board After Checking In, Luggage Removed Prior to Departure
Questions continue to be raised Sunday by airline officials and investigators over what happened to the missing Malaysia Airlines flight as few clues were evident.
Officials were studying the possibility that the flight might have turned back toward Kuala Lumpur before vanishing and a pilot in an aircraft heading towards Narita said he established voice contact with MH370 after having been asked to do so by Vietnamese air traffic control.
The investigation also took on a sinister turn when it was revealed that two passengers apparently boarded the plane with stolen Austrian and Italian passports. Malaysia’s defense minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, who is also the country’s acting transport minister, told reporters Sunday that Malaysian and international investigators are looking into the identities of everyone who was on the aircraft and not ruling out any possibilities including foul play. This comment followed the revelation by officials in Austria and Italy an Austrian and Italian listed on the missing flight’s manifest were alive and that both had had their passports stolen in Thailand.
The newspaper USA Today reported that a federal law enforcement official told it that the U.S. government is reviewing possible terrorist links in the case. Other media reports indicate that the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation has offered to send a team of investigators to assist in the investigation.
Meanwhile, Malaysia’s chief of police, Inspector-General Khalid Abu Bakar, told reporters that investigators would not “dismiss the possibility” of terrorism but it was not considered the most likely cause of the plane’s disappearance.
Airport authorities told reporters they are reviewing security footage of the flight’s passengers and baggage.
Airline and government officials said they were examining the usual causes of plane crashes, including mechanical failure, bad weather, and pilot conditions, but there is little evidence to go on indicating that the missing aircraft, a Boeing 777-200 with 239 people on board, had crashed other than oil slicks found on the Vietnam side of the mouth of the Gulf of Thailand.
The country’s deputy minister of transport, Aziz bin Kaprawi, told reporters that there had been no reports of a distress signal from the plane and nor any reports of bad weather when the aircraft last made contact.
The New York Times reported that the Pentagon’s surveillance system has found no evidence of an explosion in the area where the plane disappeared.
Malaysian officials also reported Sunday that five ticketed passengers with checked baggage had failed to board the plane. Their luggage was removed prior to departure.
(Photo: Chris Finney)