Joshua Law Kok Hwa, regional senior vice-president of the Malaysia Airlines in China, speaking at the press conference at the Metro Park Lido Hotel in Beijing, March 8, 2014.
Two of the passengers aboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 traveling with stolen passports are believed to have had “Asian features”, leading many to question how the pair made it through security using Western identities as officials remain “puzzled” over the disappearance of the aircraft.
Malaysian authorities are still investigating the CCTV footage of the passengers who got onboard with Austrian and Italian passports.
The IBTimes relays reports from the country’s Bernama Daily that Zahid Hamidi, Malaysia’s interior minister, made reference to the issue during a press conference. “I am still puzzled how come [immigration officials] cannot think: an Italian and Austrian but with Asian facial features,” he said.
“We will conduct an internal probe, particularly on the officers, who were on duty at the KLIA immigration counter during flight MH370.”
The stolen passports of a 37-year-old Italian national named Luigi Maraldi as well as a 30-year-old Austrian man named Christian Kozel were used by passengers onboard flight MH370.
The two men were named on the manifest list of missing people released by Malaysia Airlines on Saturday evening but were but confirmed alive and well by relevant embassies.
The two passengers who used the stolen passports reportedly purchased the flight tickets at the same time from China Southern Airlines. Both had onward transfers from Beijing to Europe.
“If Malaysia Airways [sic] and all airlines worldwide were able to check the passport details of prospective passengers against Interpol’s database, then we would not have to speculate whether stolen passports were used by terrorists to board MH 370,” Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble said.
“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.”
Speculations that the the plane’s disappearance is connected to a terrorist attack or hijacking situation have not been ruled out as a senior source told Reuters that officials are considering the possibility that the plane disintegrated mid-flight.
The Department of Civil Aviation Malaysia (DCA) confirmed that search and rescue teams from Australia, China, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, Philippines and the US are all assisting in the search effort, according to a media statement released by Malaysia Airlines, yet despite reports that debris were spotted in the water, no wreckage from the plane has been confirmed.
“Unfortunately, ladies and gentlemen, we have not found anything that appear to be objects from the aircraft, let alone the aircraft,” Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, director general of the Malaysian civil aviation department, told reporters today.
Experts are still examining samples from an oil slick that was spotted by a Vietnamese plane 90 miles south of Vietnam’s Tho Chu Island in the Gulf of Thailand as officials involved remain mystified over the disappearance of the plane.
“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.”
UPDATE (4:17 p.m.): Reuters reports that helicopters have been deployed to investigate a “yellow object” floating in the water which searchers suspect could be a life raft from the aircraft.
Vietnam has scrambled rescue helicopters to check a “yellow object” floating in its waters that rescue teams suspect could be a life raft from a Malaysian plane that went missing with 239 people aboard, a minister said on Monday.
A Vietnamese jet had seen the object earlier on Monday but was unable to get close enough to determine what it was, Pham Quy Tieu, Vice Transport Minister and deputy head of the country’s rescue committee, told Reuters.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam said on its website searches were being conducted about 140 km (90 miles) southwest of Tho Chu island, which is located about 200 km off the coast of southern Vietnam.
UPDATE (5:23 p.m.): via Reuters:
A Vietnamese rescue helicopter has retrieved a floating yellow object from the sea and determined it was not a life raft from a missing Malaysian plane, as was earlier suspected, the country’s civil aviation authority said on Monday.
“It has salvaged the object, at the notice and request byMalaysia’s rescue center, 130 km southwest of Tho Chu island. The object has been identified as a moss-covered cap of a cable reel,” the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam said on its website.
It did not specify whether or not the object was part of a plane but said photographs would be sent to its command center.
UPDATE (7:18 p.m.): The identity of one of the passengers using a stolen passport has been identified, according to authorities in Malaysia. The Star Online reports:
Inspector General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said the man has been identified based on CCTV footage gathered from KLIA.
“I can confirm that he is not a Malaysian, but cannot divulge which country he is from yet,” said Inspector General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar at the Kajang police headquarters yesterday.
When asked if both of the men had immigration records of entering the country, Khalid said that they were in the midst of investigating the issue.
“The man is not from XinJiang China.
He added that the missing plane has still not been linked to an act of terrorism.
Further, lab tests have confirmed that the oil slicks spotted by a Vietnamese plane 90 miles south of Vietnam’s Tho Chu Island in the Gulf of Thailand did not come from the missing flight, BBC reports.
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) March 10, 2014