According to Reuters, the continued disappearance of a Malaysian airliner about an hour into a routine flight to Beijing is an "unprecedented mystery," as a massive air and sea search now enters its third day of unsuccessful to determine the location of the 239 souls aboard the jetliner.
Dozens of ships and aircraft from ten countries scoured the seas around Malaysia and south of Vietnam as questions mounted over possible security lapses and whether a bomb or hijacking attempt could have brought down the Boeing 777-200ER which took off from the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur.
The area of the search will be widened on Tuesday, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, the head of Malaysia's Civil Aviation Authority, told reporters.
INTERPOL confirmed on Sunday (March 9) at least two passengers used stolen passports and said it was checking whether others aboard had used false identities.
COMMENT: Azharuddin said a hijacking attempt could not be ruled out as investigators explore all theories for the loss of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.
A senior source involved in preliminary investigations in Malaysia said the failure to find any debris indicated the plane may have broken up mid-flight, which could disperse wreckage overa number of countries.
"The fact that we are unable to find any debris so far appears to indicate that the aircraft is likely to have disintegrated at around 35,000 feet," said the source.
Still, the source said the closest parallels were the bomb explosions on board an Air India jetliner in 1985 when it was over the Atlantic Ocean and a Pan Am aircraft over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in 1988. Both planes were cruising at around 31,000 feet at the time.
Flight MH370 disappeared from radar screens in the early hours of Saturday, about an hour into its flight from Kuala Lumpur, after climbing to a cruising altitude of 35,000 feet.
Underlining the lack of hard information about the plane's fate, a US Navy P-3 aircraft capable of covering 1,500 square miles every hour was sweeping the northern part of the Strait of Malacca, on the other side of the Malaysian peninsula from where the last contact with MH370 was made.
No distress signal was sent from the missing jetliner.
About two-thirds of the 227 passengers and 12 crew now presumed to have died aboard the plane were Chinese. The airline said other nationalities included 38 Malaysians, seven Indonesians, six Australians, five Indians, four French and three Americans.
The passenger manifest issued by the airline included the names of two Europeans - Austrian Christian Kozel and Italian Luigi Maraldi - who were not on the plane. Their passports had been stolen in Thailand during the past two years.
An Interpol spokeswoman said a check of all documents used to board the plane had revealed more "suspect passports", which were being investigated.
"Whilst it is too soon to speculate about any connection between these stolen passports and the missing plane, it is clearly of great concern that any passenger was able to board an international flight using a stolen passport listed in Interpol's databases," Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble said.
A Thai travel agent who arranged the tickets for the two passengers using the stolen passports said she had booked them on the flight via Beijing because they were the cheapest tickets, THE FINANCIAL TIME reported.
The travel agent in the resort of Pattaya said an Iranian business contact she knew only as "Ali" had asked her to book tickets for the two men on March 1.
The travel agent had initially booked the two men on other airlines but those reservations expired and on March 6, Ali had asked her to book them again.