Interpol says Malaysian flight disappearance not terror incident

One of two people who boarded the plane with stolen passports had no links to terror groups

Malaysia inspector general says one of the stolen passport holders on missing flight is Iranian, while they are looking at angles including psychological problems among those on board. Video: Reuters

Tue, Mar 11, 2014, 11:37

The head of international police agency Interpol said today he did not believe the disappearance of a Malaysia Airlines plane at the weekend was a terrorist incident.

“The more information we get, the more we are inclined to conclude it is not a terrorist incident,” said Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble.

He also said two Iranian passport holders had swapped their passports in Kuala Lumpur and used stolen Italian and Austrian passports to board the now missing Malaysian airliner.

Malaysian authorities said one of the two people who boarded the plane with stolen passports was an Iranian who had no links to terror groups.

Pouria Nour Mohammad Mehrdad (19) got on board using an Austrian passport and aimed to migrate to Germany, Inspector General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar said in Kuala Lumpur today.

Normal procedures were followed by authorities in granting a visa when he entered Malaysia, Mr Khalid said.

“We have been checking his background, we have also checked him, with other police organizations, on his profile, and we believe that he is not likely to be a member of any terrorist group,” he added.

Malaysia is looking at whether any passengers or crew aboard had personal or psychological problems that might explain its disappearance, along with the possibility of a hijack, sabotage or mechanical failure.

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,” Mr Bakar said.

“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.

Malaysia’s military believes it tracked the missing plane by radar over the Strait of Malacca, far from where it last made contact with civilian air traffic control off the country’s east coast.

The Strait of Malacca, one of the world’s busiest shipping channels, runs along Malaysia’s west coast.

The airline said on Saturday that the flight carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew last had contact off the east coast Malaysian town of Kota Bharu.

“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.

The so-far fruitless search for the missing plane entered its fourth day today. The massive search has drawn in navies, military aircraft, coastguard and civilian vessels from 10 nations, but failed to turn up any trace of the Boeing 777-200ER that vanished about an hour into a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing early on Saturday.

“Until now, with all of our efforts, there is very little hope for any good news about this plane,” said the head of Vietnam’s search and rescue effort, Pham Quy Tieu.

The search was widened today to a larger swathe of the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea, around where the plane lost radio contact and vanished from radar screens.

Police in Thailand, where the passports were stolen and the tickets used by the two men carrying them were booked, said today 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, said.

The United States extensively reviewed imagery taken by spy satellites for evidence of a mid-air explosion, but saw none, a US government source said.

Agencies