Terrorism has not been ruled out as a possible cause. Counter-terrorism agencies and the FBI are involved in the operation. It emerged that two passengers who boarded the flight were using passports stolen in Thailand some years back.
The passports were Italian and Austrian. The passengers travelling with them had bought their tickets at the same time from China Southern Airlines which shared the flight with Malaysia Airlines, had consecutive ticket numbers and were both booked on the same onward flight from Beijing to Europe on Saturday. The news emerged when the real owners of the passports were reported safe and sound and not on any flight.
Ronald Noble, the secretary general of Interpol, said in a statement that while it was too soon to speculate on any connection between the theft and the plane's disappearance, it was "clearly of great concern that any passenger was able to board an international flight using a stolen passport listed in Interpol databases".
The passengers on the flight were of 14 different nationalities. Two-thirds were from China, while others were from elsewhere in Asia, North America and Europe.
Five passengers booked on the flight did not board, and their luggage was consequently removed.
China has sent a team of government officials to Kuala Lumpur to look into the case.
Malaysian King Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah offered his condolences to the passengers.
He said he and the Queen "would like to express our sympathy to the passengers and crew, especially to their family".
However, relatives waiting for news are getting increasingly frustrated, saying they are not getting information on time and that no government officials have visited them, the BBC's correspondent in Beijing adds.
Terror group Chinese Martyrs Brigade claims missing flight was ‘payback’, officials label it hoax
A SHADOWY group called the Chinese Martyrs’ Brigade claimed responsibility for the disappearance of Flight MH370 — but officials were sceptical and said the claim could be a hoax.The group — unheard of before now — on Sunday sent an email to journalists across China that read: “You kill one of our clan, we will kill 100 of you as pay back,” but the message provided no details of what brought the flight down.
Malaysian Defense Minister Hishamuddin Hussein told reporters he doubted the claim’s legitimacy.
“There is no sound or credible grounds to justify their claims,” he said, according to Malaysian news reports.
Other officials said the claim could be a hoax aimed at increasing ethnic tensions between Uighurs and Han Chinese in the wake of the March 1 knife attacks in the south-western city of Kunming that left 29 people dead and about 140 others injured.
The message was delivered through an encrypted, anonymous Hushmail service that is virtually impossible to trace, they said.
GHOST FLIGHTS: THE PLANES THAT DISAPPEARED
They also said an oil slick discovered in the region was not connected to the flight.
Investigators suspect the vanished Malaysian airliner may have been blown out of the sky — just like the jumbo jet that rained deadly wreckage onto Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988.
A senior official involved in the probe of its disappearance said the evidence so far “appears to indicate that the aircraft is likely to have disintegrated at around 35,000 feet,” Reuters reported.
Asked if that suggested a bomb blew up the Boeing 777, the source said there was no evidence yet of foul play, but noted the closest parallels to the plane’s disappearance early Saturday over the South China Sea were the 1980s bombings of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie and Air India Flight 182 off the coast of Ireland.
Although the source added that the flight, en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, could have broken apart due to mechanical failure, Malaysian officials have not ruled out a hijacking.
Rahman, the civil aviation chief, said officials had reviewed surveillance tape of the plane’s boarding and are now saying the pair were not Asian, as they had originally indicated.
“We confirmed now they are not Asian-looking males,” Rahman said, adding that one of the men was black.
One had been identified, officials said, though they refused to release a name or nationality.
Malaysian Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the other passenger also appeared to be Asian, and blasted the border officials who let them through while carrying passports from Austria and Italy.
“Can’t these immigration officials think? Italian and Austrian [passport holders] but with Asian faces,” Hamidi fumed.
Five booked passengers failed to show up for the flight, according to The Wall Street Journal.