Officials suspect that a missing Malaysia Airlines plane that took off from Kuala Lumpur Saturday and never landed may have disintegrated mid-flight. International crime-fighting agency Interpol also revealed that at least two of the 239 people on board had stolen passports, raising suspicions of foul play.
"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," a source in Malaysia told Reuters.
The Boeing 777-200ER took off, climbed to 35,000 feet, then disappeared from tracking records. No bad weather was reported.
While Vietnamese officials reported seeing what may have been wreckage from the plane, Malaysian civil aviation chief Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said that as of now, there is “no sign of the aircraft.”
An ongoing Interpol investigation has revealed more “suspect passports,” though a spokesperson did not see how many.
Malaysian Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi criticized border officials who allowed Asian passengers with Austrian and Italian passports onto the plane without scrutiny.
"I am still perturbed," Hamidi was quoted as saying. "Can't these immigration officials think? Italian and Austrian (passport holders) but with Asian faces," Hamidi was quoted as saying.
Four passengers are being investigated, with additional help being sought from the FBI. Officials are not assuming, however, that the stolen passports are connected to the plane’s disappearance in a hijacking.
"We are looking at all possibilities," said Malaysian Transport Minister Hishamuddin Hussein. "We cannot jump the gun. Our focus now is to find the plane."