Published: 05:20 EST, 3 May 2014 | Updated: 17:50 EST, 3 May 2014
A group of 11 terrorists with links to Al Qaeda were yesterday being interrogated on whether they are behind the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.
The suspects were arrested in the capital Kuala Lumpur and in the state of Kedah last week and are members of a violent new terror group said to be planning bomb attacks in Muslim countries.
The interrogations come after international investigators, including the FBI and MI6, asked for the militants, whose ages range from 22 to 55 and include students, odd-job workers, a young widow and business professionals, to be questioned intensively about Flight MH370.
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A Malaysian Airlines aircraft takes off from Kuala Lumpur Airport: Questions have been raised after the airline refused to reveal details of 2.3 tonnes of cargo aboard missing jet MH370 that was not listed on its manifest
Nearly two months after the Beijing-bound plane vanished soon after take-off from Kuala Lumpur, no trace has been found despite a huge sea search costing hundreds of millions of pounds. It is thought to have crashed into the Indian Ocean with 239 people on board.
An officer with the Counter Terrorism Division of Malaysian Special Branch said yesterday the arrests had heightened suspicion that the flight’s disappearance may have been an act of terrorism.
‘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,’ the officer said.
In interviews conducted so far, some suspects have admitted planning ‘sustained terror campaigns’ in Malaysia but denied being involved in the disappearance of the airliner, he added.
During the trial of Sulaiman Abu Ghaith Osama Bin Laden's son-in-law, Saajid Badat (left) said he had been instructed to give a shoe bomb to the Malaysians. He claimed Khalid Sheikh Mohammed masterminded the plot
During the trial of Sulaiman Abu Ghaith Osama Bin Laden's son-in-law, Saajid Badat, a British-born Muslim from Gloucester, said he had been instructed at a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan to give a shoe bomb to the Malaysians.
He said: 'I gave one of my shoes to the Malaysians. I think it was to access the cockpit.'
Badat, who spoke via video link and is in hiding in the UK, told the New York court the Malaysian plot was being masterminded by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the principal architect of 9/11.
A mystery surrounding the cargo being carried by the missing Malaysian Airlines plane emerged on Friday when it was discovered that it had been loaded with items not specified on the manifest.
The aircraft was carrying 4.566 tonnes of mangosteens - an exotic fruit - and a shipment of lithium batteries, which were part of a separate consignment.
The batteries weighed 200kg, but that separate consignment totalled 2.453 tonnes. So what was being carried to make up the 2.253 tonnes in that separate shipment?
Questions have been raised as Malaysia Airlines said it will close assistance centres in Beijing and Kuala Lumpur for the families of the 239 passengers and crew on board the Boeing 777-200ER jet.
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Relatives of passengers aboard flight MH370 prepare to leave a hotel where they have been staying in Beijing after Malaysia Airlines said it would close all its assistance centres for relatives the missing
The closures come after rescuers abandoned their fruitless air search for the missing jet, which had focused on a remote area of the Indian Ocean off Australia's west coast.
The mystery was sparked by a spokesman for the company that shipped the batteries telling a Malaysian newspaper that he would not reveal what the remaining 2.253 tonnes of cargo were.
'I cannot reveal more because of the ongoing investigations,' the spokesman told The Star newspaper. 'We have been told by our legal advisers not to talk about it.'
The spokesman said he could not even name the company which manufactured the batteries, insisting that the matter was confidential.
Questioned about the fact that a mystery cargo was not stated in the manifest, Malaysian Airlines told the paper that the rest of the consignment was 'radio accessories and chargers.'
A statement from the airline said that the freight not specified had been 'declared as radio accessories', despite there being no reference to this in the manifest released publicly last Thursday.
What the manifest does say is that NNR Global shipped 133 pieces of one item weighing 1.99 tonnes and 67 pieces of another item weighing 463kg for a total 'consolidated weight' of 2.453 tonnes.
Just how many lithium batteries had been loaded, or their weight, are not specified in the manifest, although Malaysian Airlines boss Ahmad Yahya told a media conference in Kuala Lumpur on March 24 that the batteries weighed a total of 200kg.
What the manifest does say, in respect of the lithium batteries, is that 'the package must be handled with care and that a flammability hazard exists if the package is damaged.
'Special procedures must be followed in the event the package is damaged, to include inspection and repacking if necessary.'
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There has been earlier speculation that a fire involving the batteries might have been the cause of the aircraft's fate.
According to The Star, shippers NNR Global are located at an air freight forwarding warehouse located less than 100 yards from the Penang International Airport.
'The complex is guarded by the police and only those with passes are allowed entry,' the newspaper said, following its investigation into the unspecified cargo.
A consolidated shipment combines several individual consignments to make up a full container load.
At the port of destination, the consolidated shipment is separated back into individual consignments for delivery to their respective consignees.
The lithium batteries and the other mystery items that are said to be radio parts were addressed to NNR Global Logistics in Beijing, but a company named JHJ International Transportation Co.Ltd of Beijing was to collect the cargo on its behalf.
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Among the conspiracy theories that have already emerged following the Boeing 777's disappearance on March 8, is that its fate was linked to 20 of the 239 people on board - they were employees of a semi-conductor manufacturing firm which develops components for hi-tech weapons systems and aircraft navigation.
They were employees of Freescale Semiconductor, a Texas technology firm, working in several manufacturing sites in Kuala Lumpur and Tianjin, China, a fact confirmed by a spokeswoman for the company.
The citizens news site Beforeitsnews, said earlier that it was conceivable that MH370 was 'hiding' with its high-tech electronic warfare weaponry.
'In fact, this type of technology is precisely the expertise of Freescale, that has 20 employees on board the missing flight,' said the website.
However, until a detailed description of the 'radio parts' that have not been itemised in the MH370 manifest has been made available, the conspiracy theories are likely to be given an added thrust.