Missing MAS 777 may have made an air turn back

Singapore
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Malaysia says it has expanded the search area for the missing Malaysia Airlines (MAS) Boeing 777-200 because of a possible “air turn back” that could have been performed.

Speaking to the media at a press conference, its acting transport minister Hishammuddin Hussein says the country is also looking closely at four names on the passenger manifest, and that terrorism units from various countries have been informed. He would not identify the four names.

“FBI officers are already here which we have met, and we will be discussing further with them,” he says.

“We’ve extended (the search) to a wider area. We’re looking at an aircraft air turn back so a wider location has to be identified,” says Hishammudin without going into further details.

He adds that no debris was spotted near the oil slicks found by Vietnamese search teams in the South China Sea late on 8 March. Vietnamese aircraft are now on site to verify “what exactly is on the surface of the waters”.

On the issue of two passengers boarding with stolen passports, Hishammuddin would only say he is working with intelligence agencies and will provide more information when available.

Asked whether the missing MAS 777 could be a case of hijack, he says that the ministry is “looking at all possibilities”.

“There are many many issues and I have experience in the whole ministry to know exactly what to look out for,” he adds.

Austrian and Italian officials have confirmed that its two citizens listed on the MH370 passenger manifest were not on board the aircraft, and that their passports were apparently stolen in Thailand.

The two who traveled with the fake passports had apparently bought their tickets from China Southern Airlines, which codeshares on the flight. In a statement on its social media site Weibo, China Southern said this morning that there were seven passengers travelling with its tickets on board the flight – including the Austrian and Italian.

Hishammuddin says the effort remains focused on locating the aircraft.

The 777, registered 9M-MRO, lost contact with the Subang Air Traffic Control centre at around 02:40 on 8 March. Its last reported position was over an area of sea between Malaysia and Vietnam.