A Malaysian Airlines plane missing without a trace for almost 48 hours as of Sunday morning may have turned around and reversed course before vanishing from radar and losing all radio contact with air traffic control, Malaysian authorities said Sunday.
The bizarre development was just one of several elements that deepened the mystery surrounding missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, raising fears that the plane may have been hijacked.
A separate, unconfirmed report said that the flight also plummeted about 650 feet before disappearing.
The crew gave no signal or warning to controllers on the ground that they were turning the plane around. So did the Malaysia Airlines plane fall victim to a hijack?
“We are trying to make sense of this,” said Rodzali Daud, head of the Malaysian Air Force. “The military radar indicated that the aircraft may have made a turn back, and in some parts this was corroborated by civilian radar.”
In another worrying development, two passengers who were traveling on stolen passports were found to be traveling together.
“I can confirm that we have the visuals of these two people on CCTV,” said Malaysia Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein Sunday. “We have intelligence agencies, both local and international, on board.”
They ordered their tickets together from a travel agency in Thailand and though the Malaysia Airlines plane was to have landed in Beijing, the two mystery passengers were booked through to Amsterdam, Holland, meaning they would not have required visas from the Chinese government.
The international law enforcement agency Interpol maintains a database of lost and stolen passports, which listed the two documents used to board Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. But no one bothered to check those passports against the Interpol listings, the agency said.
Though passport fraud is common, neglecting to anything about it is even more common. According to Interpol, more than a billion people have boarded plights with passports that were never checked against its database.
The United States FBI and Malaysian law enforcement are now trying to determine who those two passengers were. The authorities were quick to point out that simply flying on stolen passports does not mean that the two unidentified passengers were hijackers or terrorists. They could have been involved in other illegal activity, drug running for example, unrelated to the disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines plane.
The two stolen passports belonged to an Italian man and an Austrian citizen. The Italian, Luigi Maraldi, 37, came forward and is known be staying as a tourist on the Thai island of Phuket.
The Austrian is Christian Kozel, 30, who was reached by the government of that country and is also fine and in Austria.
Governments of both countries said that none of their citizens were on the missing Malaysia Airlines plane.
Yet another strange occurrence that may or may not mean anything was noted by Britain’s Daily Mirror tabloid. The paper reported that several relatives of passengers called the cell phones of their missing loved ones — only to hear the calls connect and the receiving phones ring. But no one answers.
Late Sunday evening, Vietnamese searchers discovered a floating object off the southwest coast of Vietnam. They had earlier found a similar piece of floating debris, but further investigation showed that it was not part of the missing — and possibly hijacked — Malaysia Airlines plane.
[Top Image Via firstpost.com]