On Monday, the civil aviation chief called the inexplicable disappearance of a Malaysian airliner about an hour into a flight to Beijing an “unprecedented mystery”, after three-day air and sea search failed to find any trace of the plane or 239 people on board.
The head of Malaysia’s Civil Aviation Authority, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, said a hijacking attempt could not be ruled out as investigators explore all theories for the loss of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 en route to Beijing.
“Unfortunately we have not found anything that appears to be objects from the aircraft, let alone the aircraft,” he told a news conference. “As far as we are concerned, we have to find the aircraft, we have to find a piece of the aircraft if possible.”
Malaysian maritime officials found some oil slicks in the South China Sea on Saturday, but after sending a sample to a lab, investigators announced Monday that the oil was not from an aircraft at all.
No distress signal was sent from the lost plane, which experts said suggested a sudden catastrophic failure or explosion, but Malaysia’s air force chief said radar tracking showed it may have turned back from its scheduled route before it disappeared.
On Sunday, Vietnamese searchers in a low-flying plane spotted an object that appeared to be one of the plane’s doors on Sunday, the state-run Thanh Nien newspaper said, citing the deputy chief of staff of Vietnam’s army, Lt. Gen. Vo Van Tuan. But by Monday morning, after working through the night, Vietnamese searchers had not found the object thought to be a door.
As the LA Times says, Indonesia, Thailand, Australia, China, the U.S. and other countries were participating in the quest to find the jetliner off southern Vietnam where the Gulf of Thailand meets the South China Sea. Malaysia was deploying submarine rescue vessels, officials said.
As about 40 ships and more than 20 airplanes continued looking for Flight MH370 for a third day, Interpol confirmed that at least two stolen passports were used by passengers on the plane, and the police agency’s head railed that few countries were regularly checking its international database on lost and stolen travel documents.
Azharuddin also said the two men with stolen passports did not look like Asians, but he did not elaborate. Airport CCTV footage showed they completed all security procedures, he said.
“We are looking at the possibility of a stolen passport syndicate,” he said.
An Austrian, named in reports as Christian Kozel, had his passport pinched in Thailand in 2012, while Italian Luigi Maraldi, 37, had his stolen last year, also in Thailand, officials and sources 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,” the agency’s secretary-general, Ronald K. Noble, said in a statement.
A European diplomat in Kuala Lumpur cautioned that the Malaysian capital was an Asian hub for illegal migrants, many of whom used false documents and complex routes including via Beijing or West Africa to reach a final destination in Europe, reports Reuters.