Fours days after the baffling disappearance of a Malaysian plane with 239 people aboard, there was still no trace of the aircraft today as authorities probed the mystery of an Iranian man who booked tickets for the two passengers who travelled on stolen passports.
The investigation into the fate of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 widened with authorities questioning travel agents about the two men who boarded the plane with stolen passports of an Italian and an Austrian and looked into why five individuals who checked in for the flight did not board.
The Beijing-bound Boeing 777-200 plane had 227 passengers on board, including five Indians and one Indian-origin Canadian, and 12 crew members.
The FBI is running those passengers' thumbprints through its database, a law enforcement official told CNN.
The thumbprints were taken at the airport check-in in Kuala Lumpur and were shared with intelligence and law enforcement agencies around the world by the Malaysian government.
An Iranian man named Kazem Ali bought one-way tickets for the two men, describing them as friends who wanted to return home to Europe, CNN reported citing Thai police. While Ali made the initial booking by telephone, either Ali or someone acting on his behalf paid for the tickets in cash, police said.
"We have to look further into this Mr Ali's identity because it's almost a tradition to use an alias when doing business around here," Police Lt Colonel Ratchthapong Tia-sood said.
The travel agency's owner, Benjaporn Krutnait, told The Financial Times she believed Ali was not connected to terrorism because he had asked for cheapest tickets to Europe and did not specify the Kuala Lumpur to Beijing flight.
The search for the missing plane entered the fourth day, as 34 planes, 40 ships and teams from ten countries were involved in search operations that were widened to a 100 nautical mile (185 km) radius from the point the plane was last detected.
"The search and rescue teams (SAR) have expanded the scope beyond the flight path to the West Peninsular of Malaysia at the Straits of Malacca. The authorities are looking at a possibility of an attempt made by MH370 to turn back to Subang. All angles are being looked at. We are not ruling out any possibilities," the airlines said in a statement today.
Vietnam's deputy military chief said he has ordered a land search for the plane up to border with Laos and Cambodia.
Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, head of Malaysia's Department of Civil Aviation (DCA), has said investigators were probing a stolen passport syndicate and confirmed that the two suspects were not Asian-looking.