The two men on Malayasia Airlines Flight 370 who were traveling on stolen passports were not terrorists but ordinary Iranians who hoped to emigrate to Europe, investigators now believe, after uncovering the identities of the two mystery passengers.
Malaysia police released surveillance photographs of the two men, seen above. The man on the left is Pouria Nour Mohammad Mehrdad, 19, who was on his way to Frankfurt, Germany where his mother lives.
Khalid Abu Bakar, inspector general of Malaysian police, said his agency has contacted Mehrdad’s mother. She reached out to authorities on her own after Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 was declared missing.
The man on the right in the Malaysia police handout was named as Delavar Seyed Mohammad Reza, who is 29 years old. While investigators said that Reza appears to be a friend or at least acquaintance of Mehrdad, his final destination was Copenhagen, Denmark, where he planned to seek political asylum.
Reza was using a stolen Italian passport. Mehrdad possessed a stolen passport from Austria.
The newly discovered facts about the formerly mysterious Flight 370 passengers have led Malaysia police to conclude that they were “probably not terrorists,” and the international law enforcement body Interpol agreed.
In fact, Interpol’s secretary general said that despite the still baffling way that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 vanished early Saturday morning, whatever happened probably was not the result of a terrorist act.
“The more information we get, the more we are inclined to conclude it is not a terrorist incident,” said Ronald Noble.
Noble added that the Iranian government was cooperating in the Malaysia Airlines investigation, and through joint efforts, the law enforcement agency determined that neither of the two Iranian men had a criminal history.
Both men left Iran legally, as well.
However, among Iranian travelers, the use of stolen passports is not uncommon. While they are sometimes used for illegal purposes such as drug trafficking, stolen passports are also commonly used by Iranian students traveling or looking for work abroad — or asylum-seekers.
Nor is the use of middlemen to buy tickets unusual among Iranian nationals traveling outside their home country. The tickets purchased by the Iranian pair on Malaysia Airline Flight 370 were purchased in Thailand with cash by a third Iranian man in Thailand, Hashem Saheb Gharani Golestani, 51, after they were booked from outside of the country by phone by yet another Iranian, Kazem Ali.
Though a link between the stolen passports and terrorism on Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 has been all but ruled out, investigators said they are still exploring the possibility that the plane may have been hijacked.
They are also looking into whether any of the passengers or crew had psychological issues and may have somehow interfered with the plane’s safe operation, as well as technical and other non-criminal ways to solve the mystery of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.