Interpol: Malaysian jet disappearance not likely related to terrorism
The head of Interpol says that the disappearance of a Malaysian airliner last weekend was probably not terrorism related.
Two stolen passports, the subject of intense scrutinty by investigators, were used by two men identified as Iranian nationals, but new information tends to discount terrorism as a motive.
The international police agency released photos showing the two boarding the plane at the same time. They are identified as 19-year-old Pouri Nourmohammadi and 29-year-old Delavar Seyedmohammaderza.
Malaysian Police Inspector General Khalid Tan Sri says the 19-year-old was likely trying to migrate to Germany.
"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," the inspector told reporters. "And we believe that he is trying to migrate to Germany."
Khalid said Nourmohammadi's mother knew he was traveling on a stolen passport.
The other man's identity is still under investigation. But the development reduces the likelihood they were working together as part of a terror plot.
Meanwhile, an extensive review of all of those on board continues.
The Malaysian police inspector in charge of the investigation cited four possible scenarios for the jet's disappearance; "hijacking, sabotage, personal disputes and the psychological condition of those on board."
"There may be somebody on the flight who has bought huge sums of insurance. Who wants the family to gain from it. Or somebody who owes so much money and you know," he said, adding that they are looking at all possibilities.
Interpol may be dismissing the Iranian connection to the stolen passports as being unrelated to terrorism. But read this CNN account of how the Iranians were ticketed on the flight and tell me if it doesn't sound more than a little fishy:
On Saturday, Reza used the Italian's passport; Nourmohammadi used the Austrian's.
According to Thai police officials, an Iranian man by the name of Kazem Ali bought one-way tickets for the two men, describing them as friends who wanted to return home to Europe. While Ali made the initial booking by telephone, either Ali or someone acting on his behalf paid for the tickets in cash, according to police.
The tickets were apparently purchased at the same time from China Southern Airlines in Thailand's baht currency at identical prices, according to China's official e-ticket verification system Travelsky.
The ticket numbers are contiguous, indicating they were issued together.
Both were for travel from Kuala Lumpur to Amsterdam via Beijing.
The ticket using the Italian passport then continued on to Copenhagen, Denmark.
The ticket on the Austrian passport ended in Frankfurt, Germany.
Nourmohammadi was hoping to emigrate to Germany. His mother had been expecting him to arrive in Frankfurt and contacted authorities when he didn't show up, said Malaysian Inspector General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar.
"If you read what the head of Malaysia police said recently, about (Nourmohammadi) ... wanting to travel to Frankfurt, Germany, to be with his mother, (this) is part of a human smuggling issue and not a terrorist issue," Interpol's Noble said.
Interpol says the stolen passports were in its database. But no country had checked them against Interpol's list. It is countries, not airlines, that have access to Interpol's data, and many governments don't routinely check passports against the database.
It may turn out to be a "human smuggling" operation but I wouldn't dismiss the terrorism angle as quickly as the Interpol governor general.