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Malaysia Airlines plane mystery: Stolen passports pointing to terrorists?

The mystery succinctly: What happened to Malaysia Airlines plane Saturday while flying over the South China Sea? Did Flight MH307 disintegrate in mid-air at 35,000 feet? The almost total lack of a debris field (a plane door and some oil slicks might indicate a downed aircraft) seems to indicate it may have. And if it did, what caused its disintegration? Was it a structural failure that cascaded? Or was it terrorism, a bomb that destroyed the Boeing 777? And do a set of stolen passports used by at least two -- and perhaps four -- passengers to board the flight have anything to do with the missing plane?

The Associated Press reported (via Yahoo News) March 9 that experts and authorities are feverishly attempting to cobble together the various bits and pieces of information concerning missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH307 in order to find the airplane and determine why it did not finish its flight into Beijing, China. With the limited information so far gleaned from various sources, several scenarios of what might have happened to the massive airplane and its 239 passengers and crew have presented themselves. But one overriding detail -- that the aircraft disappeared from radar over the South China Sea without so much as a Mayday call -- has left investigators and experts little room to stray far from outcomes that are relatively dire.

The scenarios suggested: Catastrophic structural failure, bad weather, pilot disorientation, failure of both engines, a bomb, a hijacking, and pilot suicide. Several of the scenarios are difficult to imagine occurring without the pilots getting off a distress signal, especially given that the airplane was cruising seven miles above the surface.

Coupled with the sudden disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines 777 is the growing concern surrounding at least two passengers that boarded Flight MH307 under assumed identities using stolen passports. The Daily Mail reported that Interpol has been apprised of at least two more names on the flight manifest that could also belong to individuals that have had their passports stolen -- meaning that there may have been four passengers on the airplane traveling under false identities. The fears surfaced after it was discovered that none of the passengers on Flight MH307 were checked against Interpol's international database of stolen and lost passports.

The two known individuals on the Malaysia Airlines plane that were using stolen passports have yet to be identified, but they were discovered when the true owners of the passports announced they were alive and well. Austrian citizen Christian Kozel, 30, was shocked to discover he was dead but informed Austrian police that showed up at his door (to inform relatives of his possible passing via Flight MH307) that he had reported his passport stolen while in Thailand two years ago. Italian national Luigi Maraldi, 37, also reported his passport stolen last year (in August) in Thailand.

Interpol is now checking the passenger list to see if more stolen passports may have been used. The passports of Maraldi and Kozel were listed as stolen on Interpol's international database, prompting the agency to question how the two passengers were allowed to get on the airplane at all.

And then there is the added detail that the plane might have turned back toward its departure location, Kuala Lumpur.

Rodzali Daud, the Royal Malaysian Air Force chief, told reporters at a news conference: "What we have done is actually look into the recording on the radar that we have and we realised there is a possibility the aircraft did make a turn back."

Much of what is known has given rise to a lot of speculation that the airplane might have been brought down suddenly due to a bomb, a hijacking, or a combination of scenarios that created a "perfect storm" of factors that either caused the airplane to suddenly disintegrate or fall from the sky. For example, a terrorist act could involve a hijacking, a bomb, and/or pilot suicide (said pilot plunging the plane into the ocean to stop the hijacking terrorists or the pilot as terrorist ditching the plane into the South China Sea).

So, until at least some part of the Malaysia Airlines plane is recovered -- or evidence surfaces that points to an act of terrorism -- to help illuminate what might have happened to Flight MH307 and its 239 passengers and crew, there will continue to be speculation aplenty. Because, thus far, sans definitive evidence of even wreckage from the plane itself, additional details seem to only deepen the mystery surrounding the jet's disappearance.