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Malaysia airlines plane: Terrorism concerns rise, stolen passports used on plane

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Malaysia airlines plane, Flight MH370, lost and suspected of crashing into the Gulf of Thailand, is now being investigated by U.S. and Malaysian officials for possible connection as a terrorist attack. According to a NBC news report today, two individuals listed as passengers on the flight manifest of the missing Malaysian craft have been confirmed safe, but records show their passports were used to board the plane.

Flight 370, carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew members, left Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Saturday and was bound for Beijing. A search and rescue team was activated after traffic control suddenly lost all contact with the plane.

“The plane left Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 12:55 a.m. Saturday and lost contact with the air traffic controller at about 2:40 a.m.,” an airline official said. “We have organized a team to help locate the plane.”

Malaysia is 13 hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time.

Malaysia Airlines CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya released a statement that said: “Our team is currently calling the next-of-kin of passengers and crew. Focus of the airline is to work with the emergency responders and authorities and mobilize its full support.”

Yahya’s words did not sound too hopeful.

“We deeply regret that we have lost all contact,” he said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with all affected passengers and crew and their family members.”

Officials believe the plane may have crashed into the Gulf of Thailand after a 12-mile-long streak of oil was photographed, seen here. The plane had 7.5 hours of fuel when it left Malaysia.

U.S. officials made it clear that as of yet, they have not established a link to terrorists or any such attack, and that the stolen passports may have been used for non-terrorist related illegal operations, such as to smuggle contraband out of the country.

NBC News picks up the story:

But the revelations, hours after the jet disappeared over the South China Sea without sending a distress signal, significantly changed how U.S. officials looked at the disaster. U.S. officials said they were checking into passenger manifests and going back through intelligence.

“We are aware of the reporting on the two stolen passports,” one senior official said. “We have not determined a nexus to terrorism yet, although it’s still very early, and that’s by no means definitive.”

The two individuals who were listed as passengers on the flight both reported their passports stolen over a year ago while they were in Thailand on separate visits. The passports belonged to an Italian man, 37-year-old Luigi Maraldi, and an Austrian citizen.

“We believe that the name and passport were used by an unidentified person to board the plane,” a spokesman for Austria’s Foreign Ministry said.

It is highly unusual that two stolen passports, taken over a year ago, would be used on the same plane and not be connected in some manner.

But at this point, U.S. officials would only say that “all we know is something quick and catastrophic” happened to the plane.

Malaysia Airlines said the airliner was captained by an experienced pilot, a 53-year-old who had 18,365 hours of flying since joining the airline since 1981, reports ABC News.

Three Americans were on board the flight and have been identified. They include two young toddlers, according to the flight's manifest.

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