'Joint ticket purchase adds to mystery to missing plane probe'

'Joint ticket purchase adds to mystery to missing plane probe'

Two people who traveled on the missing Malaysian Airlines flight under the passports of an Italian and an Austrian citizen appear to have bought their tickets together, a media report said today.

The tickets were bought from China Southern Airlines in Thai baht at identical prices, according to China's official e-ticket verification system Travelsky. The ticket numbers are contiguous, which indicates the tickets were issued together, CNN reported.

The new information adds to the mystery that has enveloped the fate of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, the passenger jet that disappeared over Southeast Asia yesterday on its way to Beijing with 239 people on board, including five Indians and a Canadian national of Indian origin.

Italy and Austria have said that none of their citizens were on board the plane. And officials say the Italian and Austrian whose names were on the passenger manifest both had their passports stolen in Southeast Asia in recent years.

The two tickets booked with China Southern Airlines both start in Kuala Lumpur, flying to Beijing, and then onward to Amsterdam. The Italian passport's ticket continues to Copenhagen, the Austrian's to Frankfurt, the report said.

Authorities say they are investigating the identities of some of those on board who appear to have issues with their passports.

Confusion over who exactly was on the plane has drawn particular attention, notably the case of the Italian and Austrian passports.

The passport mystery raised concerns about the possibility of terrorism, but officials cautioned that it was still too early to arrive at any conclusions.

A US intelligence official said that no link to terrorism had been discovered so far, but that authorities were still investigating.

Malaysian authorities have been in contact with counterterrorism organisations about possible passport issues, Malaysia's transportation minister Hishamuddin Hussein said.

He did not specify how many potential passport issues there were, saying authorities are looking at the whole passenger manifest.

The US government has been briefed on the stolen passports and reviewed the names of the passengers in question but found nothing at this point to indicate foul play, an American law enforcement official, who spoke on condition of anonymity said.

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