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Iranian asylum-seeker used stolen passport on Malaysia Airlines flight, police say

Malaysian police said Tuesday that one of the passengers who used a stolen passport to board a Malaysia Airlines flight that disappeared early Saturday morning was an Iranian man seeking asylum in Europe.

Police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said Tuesday that the man, whom the BBC identified as 19-year-old Pouria Nour Mohammad Mehrdad, was not believed to be a member of a terrorist group. Bakar says Mehrdad was believed to be planning to reach Frankfurt, Germany, and added that that the young man's mother was waiting for him and had been in contact with the police. Bakar said she contacted Malaysian authorities to inform them of her concern when her son didn't get in touch with her.

The second passenger using a stolen passport has not been identified. However, late Monday, the BBC's Persian service reported that both men who bought the stolen passports were Iranians who planned to use them to migrate to Europe. The report cited a friend of both men who hosted them at his home in Kuala Lumpur as they prepared to travel to Beijing, the final destination of the flight.

Over the weekend, the passports were identified as belonging to 30-year-old Austrian Christian Kozel and 37-year-old Italian Luigi Maraldi. Both men had reported that their passports had been stolen while they were traveling in Thailand. The BBC reported that the Iranians bought the passports in Kuala Lumpur and planned to travel on to Amsterdam from Beijing. Once in Amsterdam, the other, unidentified man planned to continue to Copenhagen, Denmark.

It was not made immediately clear how the passports were sent from Thailand to Kuala Lumpur.

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