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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Friday, May 25, 2018

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Passengers who boarded MH370 with stolen passports identified

Both men flew to Kuala Lumpur from Iran using their own Iranian passports

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The two men who boarded Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 with stolen passports have been identified as Iranians.

Pouria Nourmohammadi, 18, and Seyed Mohammed Reza Delavar, 29, have been confirmed by officials in Tehran and by Interpol as being the men who posed as Italian and Austrian nationals to board the plane.

Officials say both men flew to Kuala Lumpur from Iran using their own Iranian passports, and then used the stolen documents to board the flight to Beijing.

"It was thanks to the thorough and swift response by Interpol's National Central Bureau in Tehran that these two men have been identified," Secretary General of Interpol Ronald K. Noble said at a news conference in Lyon, France Tuesday. Interpol said it had also confirmed that neither man had a criminal record and both left Iran legally. Malaysian officials said it appeared neither men had any association with any terrorist group.

The breakthrough comes as officials for Malaysia Airlines, Interpol and others involved in the investigation say the likelihood of terrorism being involved in the plane's disappearance has diminished. "The more information we get, the more we're inclined to conclude that it was not a terrorist incident" Noble said. That view however is not shared by the CIA. Director John Brennan when asked at a meeting of the Council on Foreign Relations whether terrorism was being ruled out, responded: "No, we're not ruling it out. Not at all."

The use of stolen passports by two passengers on the Malaysia Airlines flight has dominated headlines since the plane disappeared on Saturday. Although Malaysian immigration authorities came under criticism for not checking whether all passports used by international passengers were in Interpol's SLTD database it came to light that only "a handful" of countries were doing so.

In 2013, less than 20 of Interpol's 190 member countries systematically checked passports of international travellers against their databases, the international agency confirmed on Tuesday.

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