| KUALA LUMPUR, March 9
KUALA LUMPUR, March 9 Malaysian officials are
poring over CCTV footage and questioning immigration officers
and guards at Kuala Lumpur's international airport, concerned
that a security breach may be connected to the disappearance of
Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.
Suspicions that the Beijing-bound Boeing jet, which
vanished on Saturday with 239 people on board, may have been
hijacked or bombed have risen after at least two passengers were
found to be using stolen passports, though Malaysia's government
stressed it was considering all possibilities.
Malaysian investigators, assisted by the FBI, are probing
the identities of four passengers in particular, two Malaysian
officials with knowledge of the investigation told Reuters.
The four comprise two travellers with European passports,
possibly Ukrainian, in addition to two travelling on stolen
Austrian and Italian passports, the sources said.
"We have deployed our investigators to look through all the
security camera footage. Also, they are interviewing immigration
officials who let the imposters through," said one official with
direct knowledge of the investigation.
"Early indications show some sort of a security lapse, but I
cannot say any further right now."
The head of Malaysia's civil aviation authority told
reporters on Sunday that two "imposters" had been identified by
investigators as they made their way from check-in, through
immigration to the departure gate. Malaysia's transport
minister, Hishamuddin Hussein, confirmed that investigators were
looking at four passengers.
A spokesperson for Malaysia Airports Holdings,
which operates the country's airports, declined to comment.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said on Sunday that the
country's airport security protocols would be reviewed, The Star
Asked how strongly investigators suspected foul play, the
second official said: "There are initial indications but it's
too early ... who knows what happened on that plane. But we are
keeping our minds open."
UIGHUR LINK "NOT RULED OUT"
The timing of the incident, a week after knife-wielding
assailants killed at least 29 people at a train station in the
southwestern Chinese city of Kunming, led to speculation that
militants from China's Uighur Muslim minority could be involved.
One of the Malaysian officials said the authorities were not
ruling out Uighur involvement in the jet's disappearance, noting
that Uighurs were deported to China from Malaysia in 2011 and
2012 for carrying false passports.
"This is not being ruled out. We have sent back Uighurs who
had false passports before. It is too early to say whether there
is a link," the official said.
Malaysia, a Muslim-majority country that has courted close
ties with Beijing in recent years, deported 11 Uighurs in 2011
it said were involved in a human smuggling syndicate.
The next year, it was condemned by U.S.-based Human Rights
Watch for deporting six Uighurs the rights group described as
asylum seekers. Human Rights Watch said the six had been
detained while trying to leave Malaysia on fake passports.
A source with ties to the Chinese leadership said there was
no confirmed connection to Uighur militants, but described the
timing as "very suspicious" coming so soon after the Kunming
Li Jiheng, governor of Yunnan province where Kunming is
located, told reporters on Sunday that there was currently no
information to show that the knife attack and the missing flight
were "necessarily connected".
Malaysia Airlines operations director, Hugh Dunleavy, told
reporters in Beijing that they were aware of the reports of
"As far as we're aware, every one of the people onboard that
aircraft had a visa to go to China," he said. "That doesn't mean
they weren't false passports, but that means that it's probably
lower down on the probability scale."
China has a reputation for being rigorous on visa approvals
and checks at border entry points, but the pair's European
passports may have enabled them to bypass the visa scrutiny.
Under a recently launched exemption programme, citizens of
many Western nations are granted visa-free entry for 72 hours
upon arrival in Beijing as long as they have an onward ticket.
The BBC reported that the men using the stolen passports had
purchased tickets together and were flying on to Europe.
"People with fake passports present a huge problem for
security," said Yang Shu, a security expert at China's Lanzhou
University. "I strongly believe that they had something to do
with the plane going missing."