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Eleven Arrested over Missing Malaysian Airlines Flight

Range of people said to be linked to Al Qaeda arrested in Kuala Lumpur. Are they also linked to mysterious cargo on the missing airliner?
By Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 5/4/2014, 9:52 AM

Malaysia Airlines
Malaysia Airlines
Reuters

Eleven Al Qaeda-linked terrorists were arrested in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday, according to the Daily Mail, in connection to the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in March. 

The eleven, whose ages range from 22 to 55 and include students, business professionals, odd-job workers and even a young widow, are being questioned intensively over the flight after an investigation by several intelligence organizations.

Despite repeated denials that the flight's disappearance was a terror attack, Malaysian officials finally admitted after the arrests that the new development raises the possibility of Al Qaeda's involvement. 

"The possibility that the plane was diverted by militants is still high on the list and international investigators have asked for a comprehensive report on this new terror group," an officer with the Counter Terrorism Division of Malaysian Special Branch stated to the daily on Friday.

He added that some suspects have already admitted to planning "sustained terror campaigns" in Malaysia but denied being involved with the disappearance. 

Mystery cargo

An additional mystery surrounding the flight emerged Friday, after authorities discovered that the cargo hold was carrying items not on the manifest.  

The aircraft was carrying 4.566 tonnes (5.03 tons or 10,066 lbs) of mangosteens - an exotic fruit - and a shipment of lithium batteries, which were part of a separate consignment, according to the manifest. 

But while the batteries weighed 200kg (440 lbs), the entire consignment totaled just 2.453 tonnes (2.7 tons or 5408 lbs)  - and an additional 2.253 tonnes (2.483 tons or 4967 lbs) remains unaccounted for. 

A spokesman for the battery company refused to disclose what was in the cargo shipment, nor the name of the battery company itself.

"I cannot reveal more because of the ongoing investigations," the spokesman told The Star. "We have been told by our legal advisers not to talk about it."

Malaysian Airlines told the paper that the rest of the consignment was "radio accessories and chargers" - despite no such reference being made on the manifest, which was published in international media last week. 

NNR Global is named as one of the companies behind the shipment on the manifest. According to the daily, the offices are located at an air freight forwarding warehouse located less than 100 yards from the Penang International Airport, and the "complex is guarded by the police and only those with passes are allowed entry."

The lithium batteries were addressed to the company's global office in Beijing, but a different company - JHJ International Transportation Co.Ltd - was sent to collect the cargo on its behalf. 

The news is the latest in the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 case, which has been the subject of international attention after it disappeared without a trace on March 8. 

A range of theories as to its fate have emerged – from hijacking to crashing to being diverted for use in a terror attack, possibly against Israel. Later theories have become even wilder, ranging from an onboard fire to a suicide mission

Controversy reigns over every detail of the flight, including the co-pilot's last words - "All right, good night" - and the fact that two Iranian nationals with stolen passports were on board.

An extensive search across the massive Indian Ocean has produced mixed messages from government officials, as bereaved families are fed hope on the one hand, and told the flight has not yet been found on another.