Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Malaysia Launches Terror Probe Over Missing Plane; Debris Reportedly Spotted

Long, difficult investigation awaits international teams


Malaysia has launched a terror probe into the disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines passenger plane which vanished from radars en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing while carrying 239 people on Saturday. Debris from the jet has reportedly been spotted.
The massive search operation for the Boeing 777, which has been ongoing for about two days, might have brought forth its first results, with possible debris from the aircraft reportedly found in the sea off the coast of south Vietnam.

“We received information from a Vietnamese plane saying that they found two broken objects, which seem like those of an aircraft, located about 50 miles (80 kilometers) to the south-west of Tho Chu Island,” an unnamed official from the National Committee for Search and Rescue told AFP. “As it is night they cannot fish them out for proper identification. They have located the position of the areas and flown back to the land.”

#MH370 Vietnam search and rescue aircraft spotted new floating object. Authorities are not sure what it is. pic.twitter.com/m0peec6DVm

— Vu Trong Khanh (@TrongKhanhVu) March 9, 2014

These objects are believed to be a piece of the jetliner’s tail and part of its inner door, The Wall Street Journal reported.

But, a US team involved in the search operation in the South China Sea refuted reports that the debris found belonged to the missing plane, Vietnam’s Tuoi Tre news reported. 
According to the US embassy representative in Hanoi, Jacky Ly Thang, the American team carried out an investigation and concluded that the object found 100 kilometers southwest of the Vietnamese island of Tho Chu has no connection to the missing aircraft.

So far there has been no official confirmation from Malaysian authorities that the debris is connected to flight MH370, which lost touch with Subang Air Traffic Control around 02:40 local time on Saturday morning. The plane was carrying 227 passengers, including two infants, and 12 crew members.

At this point, no further developments regarding MH370 has been confirmed. We are waiting for new updates from DCA on the SAR efforts.

— Malaysia Airlines (@MAS) March 9, 2014

Officials investigating the mysterious disappearance of the aircraft are considering the possibility of the airliner’s mid-air disintegration, a source involved in the investigations told Reuters.

“The fact that we are unable to find any debris so far appears to indicate that the aircraft is likely to have disintegrated at around 35,000 feet,” said the source on condition of anonymity. If the aircraft had plunged intact from such a height, breaking up only upon impact with the water, search teams would have expected to find a fairly concentrated pattern of debris, the source added.

Earlier Sunday, China sent two more navy ships to join the search, China Central Television reported. The US was also reported to have dispatched additional aircraft.

#USNavy SH-60R Seahawk departs to aid in the search efforts of the missing airliner. #MH370 #MalaysiaAirlinespic.twitter.com/7VSNi8xLSi 
 — 7th Fleet (@US7thFleet) March 9, 2014

Adding more mystery to the story, the family of one of the passengers aboard the missing plane successfully rang the person's cell phone, but nobody answered, Mirror Online reported.

The relatives asked Malaysia Airlines to use satellite technologies and intercept the phone signal before its battery is run down.

Malaysia launches terror probe

Malaysian authorities have launched a terror probe into the disappearance of the passenger plane. They were checking CCTV footage at the airport and investigating the identities of four passengers, at least two of whom boarded the flight using stolen passports.

The country’s Prime Minister Najib Razak said that airport security procedures were being reviewed.

“We will enhance them if necessary, because we still do not know the cause of the incident,” he said, as quoted by Reuters.

Meanwhile, Interpol is “examining additional suspect passports.”

The agency confirmed on Sunday that at least two passports – an Austrian and Italian – recorded in its database were used by passengers on board the missing flight. Both passports were stolen in Thailand in 2012 and 2013 respectively, the agency said in a statement.

No checks of the stolen passports were made by any country between the time they were entered into Interpol’s database and the departure of flight MH 370, according to Interpol. Therefore, Interpol said it is currently unable to determine how many times the passports have been used to board flights or cross borders.

“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,” said Interpol Secretary General Ronald K. Noble.

Interpol also criticized loose security measures at international airports.

“For years Interpol has asked why should countries wait for a tragedy to put prudent security measures in place at borders and boarding gates,” said Noble. “Now, we have a real case where the world is speculating whether the stolen passport holders were terrorists,” the agency said, adding that it would like to know why “only a handful of countries worldwide are taking care to make sure that persons possessing stolen passports are not boarding international flights.”

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