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Interpol Names Iranian Men Involved in Missing Malaysian Flight

Iranian nationals used the stolen passports, booked tickets - but authorities still hesitant to blame terrorism.
By Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 3/11/2014, 3:20 PM

As the search for the 239 missing passengers of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 continues, the names of the Iranians involved in the plane's disappearance have been revealed on Tuesday. 

CNN reports that Interpol revealed the names of the two men who boarded the flight last week using stolen passports - one Austrian, one Italian. The two men - both Iranian nationals - were Pouria Nour Mohammadi, 18, and Delavar Seyed Mohammad Reza, 29. Thai police have also named the Iranian man responsible for selling the passports and booking the tickets: Mr. Kazem Ali. 

On Monday, Benjaporn Krutnait, owner of the agency Grand Horizon Travel in Pattaya, Thailand, stated that Mr. Ali booked two one-way tickets for the Iranian nationals, with Frankfurt as the final destination. Mr. Ali noted that the men were just "friends who wanted to go home to Europe" and paid in cash - a common practice in Pattaya. 

Despite the development, authorities are hesitant to cry 'terrorism,' according to the news agency. At the very least, according to Inspector General Khalid Abu Bakar of the Royal Malaysian Police, the younger Iranian's record appears to be clean. 

"We have been checking his background," Khalid said. "We have also checked him with other police organizations of his profile, and we believe that he is not likely to be a member of any terrorist group." 

Analysts noted on Monday that stolen or fake passports were a common occurrence in Asia, according to Yediot Aharonot, and explains why the stolen passports did not automatically raise a "red flag" during the check-in process. Despite this, Malaysia Airlines continues to face criticism over the passports, which were not picked up by authorities despite being registered on an Interpol stolen passport list. 

Israeli experts also stated Monday that the lack of new developments is not surprising; it may take years to know the cause of the plane's disappearance, if it is ever discovered at all. The 1988 Lockerbie terrorist bombing on Pam Am Flight 103 took three years to solve, experts noted, and even then serious doubts remain over precisely who was responsible. 

In the meantime, rescue teams have reported that "huge chunks of debris" were seen floating off the coast of Vietnam - but that the debri's connection to the missing airline has not been confirmed.