Malaysian military says missing jet changed course

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - The Malaysian military says it has radar evidence showing the missing Boeing 777 jetliner drastically changed course and made it to the Malacca Strait, hundreds of kilometers (miles) away from the last location reported by civilian authorities.

The development injects new mystery into the investigation of the flight's disappearance.

Local newspaper Berita Harian quoted Malaysian air force chief Gen. Rodzali Daud as saying radar at a military base had detected the airliner near Pulau Perak, at the northern approach to the strait.

A high-ranking military official involved in the investigation confirmed the report on Tuesday and also said the aircraft was believed to be flying low.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information.

Authorities on Tuesday also say one of the passengers using a stolen passport on the missing Malaysian Airlines jetliner was Iranian — a 19-year-old who they believe was intending to migrate to Germany and is not suspected of having links to terrorism groups.

Police in Malaysia named the teen as Pouria Nour Mohammad Mehrdad.

General Khalid Abu Bakar, Malaysia's police chief inspector, said police had spoken to the man's mother, who knew her son was using a stolen passport on his attempted journey, via Beijing, to join her in Frankfurt.

The identity of the second person who used a stolen passport to board the flight is still being investigated, police say. Interpol named him as Delavar Seyed Mohammadreza, also an Iranian national. He entered and left Malaysia at the same time and date as Mehrdad. Southeast Asia is widely regarded as a hub for illegal migration.

Bakar said authorities had "no prior intelligence on activities of terrorists" in connection with the flight, but that did not mean they were ruling out terrorism. He said the police investigation into the missing flight was focused on four areas: hijacking, sabotage, personal problems among crew and passengers or psychological problems among crew or passengers.

As an example of relevant psychological or personal problems, Bakar suggested police would investigate "if somebody on the flight had bought huge sums of insurance," so their family could gain, or were in severe debt. "We are looking into every possibility," he said.

Bakar denied earlier reports, sourced by local media from Malaysia's Department of Civil Aviation, that five passengers had checked in to flight MH370 but not boarded the plane. "Everybody who booked the flight boarded the flight," he said. Police are studying video footage from the airport, he said, and gathering photographs and profiles of all the passengers from authorities in the 14 countries of which they were citizens.

Those pictures and profiles are still coming in, said Bakar, but China, whose state-run press has been critical of the speed of the Malaysian response, has delivered photos and profiles for all 153 of its citizens on board the flight, he said. Bakar met a delegation from China's Ministry of Public Security on Tuesday.

Immigration Department Director-General Datuk Aloyah Mamat said that the two passengers now known to have used stolen passports arrived at Kuala Lumpur airport on Feb. 28 and left on March 7. Immigration officers matched the passport bearers and the images in their passports and issued both a 90-day "social visit pass" visa, she said.

While Malaysian immigration requires visitors to give their fingerprints, it appears these biometric details are not checked against an international database.

MALAYSIAN AIRLINES PROBE: Iranian linked to stolen passports on doomed jet

The development comes Tuesday as investigators, having failed to find any debris from the missing jetliner in the waters off Vietnam, widened the scope of their search, focusing for the first time on Malaysia's western coast.

The Boeing 777 with 239 people on board disappeared Saturday over the South China Sea less than an hour after it took off from Kuala Lumpur on its way to Beijing. A search effort involves dozens of aircraft and ships from several countries.

Hjelmgaard reported from London.


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