Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Iranian asylum-seeker used stolen passport on Malaysia Airlines flight, police say

Malaysian police said Tuesday that one of the passengers who used a stolen passport to board a Malaysia Airlines flight that disappeared early Saturday morning was an Iranian man seeking asylum in Europe.Police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said Tuesday that the man, whom the BBC identified as 19-year-old Pouria Nour Mohammad Mehrdad, was not believed to be a member of a terrorist group.
Bakar says Mehrdad was believed to be planning to reach Frankfurt, Germany, and added that that the young man's mother was waiting for him and had been in contact with the police. Bakar said she contacted Malaysian authorities to inform them of her concern when her son didn't get in touch with her.

The second passenger using a stolen passport has not been identified. However, late Monday, the BBC's Persian service reported that both men who bought the stolen passports were Iranians who planned to use them to migrate to Europe. The report cited a friend of both men who hosted them at his home in Kuala Lumpur as they prepared to travel to Beijing, the final destination of the flight.

Over the weekend, the passports were identified as belonging to 30-year-old Austrian Christian Kozel and 37-year-old Italian Luigi Maraldi. Both men had reported that their passports had been stolen while they were traveling in Thailand. The BBC reported that the Iranians bought the passports in Kuala Lumpur and planned to travel on to Amsterdam from Beijing. Once in Amsterdam, the other, unidentified man planned to continue to Copenhagen, Denmark.

It was not made immediately clear how the passports were sent from Thailand to Kuala Lumpur.

A BBC Persian editor told Britain's Daily Telegraph that the Iranians were "looking for a place to settle." Both Malaysia and Thailand are home to large Iranian communities.

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 vanished from radar screens early Saturday local time with 239 people on board, shortly after takeoff from Kuala Lumpur. In the absence of any sign that the plane was in trouble before it vanished, speculation has ranged widely, including pilot error, plane malfunction, hijacking and terrorism. The last theory had focused on the reports that two stolen passports had been used by passengers on the plane.

Earlier Tuesday, Malaysia Airlines said that the search for the missing plane had extended beyond its flight path, with the focus turning to "the West Peninsular of Malaysia at the Straits of Malacca," the other side of the country from where Flight 370 was last located when it disappeared.

Civil aviation chief Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said the statement didn't imply authorities believed the plane was off the western coast. "The search is on both sides," he said.

Vietnam's deputy military chief said he had ordered a land search for the plane up to border with Laos and Cambodia. He said that military units near the border with Laos and Cambodia had been instructed to search their regions also.

"So far we have found no signs (of the plane) ... so we must widen our search on land," said Lt. Gen. Vo Van Tuan, deputy chief of staff of Vietnamese People's Army.

The Chinese People's Liberation Army Daily newspaper said Beijing had deployed 10 satellites that will use high-resolution earth imaging capabilities and other technology to "support and assist in the search and rescue operations for the Malaysian Airlines aircraft."

The Chinese satellites will also help in weather monitoring, communication and search operations in the area where the plane disappeared, Reuters quoted the newspaper as saying.

The announcements reflect the difficulty authorities are having in finding the plane. China has urged Malaysia to speed up the search for the plane. About two-thirds of passengers and 12 crew aboard the plane were Chinese, according to Reuters.

No comments:

Post a Comment