Tickets of Malaysia Plane's Suspect Tied to Iranian Man

'Mr Ali' bought them for men with stolen passports, but no indication of larger plot

By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 10, 2014 2:17 PM CDT

(Newser) – It's well past midnight in Malaysia, where the search for Flight MH370 is on hold until daylight, but developments are continuing to trickle out—though the updates are far from clarifying ones. The Financial Times follows up a report on the two men—one using an Italian passport, one Austrian—who boarded the plane using stolen passports. A Thai travel agent told the paper that the tickets were booked through an Iranian middleman who goes by "Mr. Ali." She says she has booked tickets for him for the past three years, and there is no indication that "Ali" was aware the passports were stolen; the agent says Ali often booked travel for his contacts.

He had asked her to arrange for the tickets March 1, and the men were originally on different airlines: Qatar and Ethiad (they had different end destinations). But the reserved tickets ultimately expired, with Ali reaching out again on Thursday; the men were then booked on Malaysia Airlines. Now Malaysian authorities have given the US images of the two men, a US official tells CNN. Meanwhile:

  • The Wall Street Journal reports that Malaysian authorities are looking into five people who checked into the flight but didn't board—a not uncommon occurrence. Their luggage was removed from the flight before it departed.
  • The search area is now bigger, and includes a portion of the strait of Malacca and more of the South China Sea, per the Guardian. The director general of Malaysia's Department of Civil Aviation says that's an area with a 100-nautical-mile radius, double the previous size. China is lending space satellites to the search.

People hold a banner and candles during a candlelight vigil for passengers aboard a missing Malaysia Airlines plane in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Monday, March 10, 2014.
People hold a banner and candles during a candlelight vigil for passengers aboard a missing Malaysia Airlines plane in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Monday, March 10, 2014.   (AP Photo/Lai Seng Sin)
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