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Mystery duo on lost jet were Iranians seeking a better life

By Anrew Buncombe

They were going in search of a better life. Two young Iranian men, one wearing a short-sleeved blue T-shirt, the other dressed in a long-sleeved black shirt, have been identified as the mystery travellers who boarded Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 using stolen passports.

The authorities say there is no evidence they were linked to any terror groups; rather they were apparently travelling to Europe to try and find work.

As the search for the missing aircraft passed its fourth day with no trace last night, officials revealed the identities of the two passengers as 29-year-old Delavar Seyed Mohammadreza and Pouria Nour Mohammad Mehrdad, aged either 18 or 19.

At a Press conference in Lyon, France, Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble said he was increasingly of the belief that the disappearance of the Boeing 777 and the 239 people on board was not linked to terrorism.

"The more information we get, the more we are inclined to conclude it is not a terrorist incident," said Mr Noble. "Eventually, we'll be able to exclude that they were involved in conduct that might have involved the plane to disappear and focus on eliminating the human trafficking ring that allowed them to travel."

Reports yesterday said Malaysia's military suggested the missing plane may have actually flown for more than an hour after vanishingand the search area was being extended again,

A partial picture emerged of the journey being undertaken by the two men whowere the focus of much of the work being conducted by intelligence investigators.

It appears the two men boarded a flight in Doha, Qatar, using their Iranian passports, and flew to Kuala Lumpur. There, they were able to pick up two European passports, one belonging to Austrian Christian Kozel and the other to Luigi Maraldi of Italy. The passports had been stolen in Thailand in 2012 and 2013 respectively.

"We know that once these individuals arrived in Kuala Lumpur on February 28 they boarded flight 370 using different identities, a stolen Austrian and a stolen Italian passport," said Mr Noble.

Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia are known as popular stop-off points for Iranians looking to settle in the West due to their friendly visa regulations with Iran. Many arrive on tourist visas and are helped by local travel agents and people-traffickers.

The two Iranians were bound for Europe, on tickets apparently bought by an Iranian middleman at a travel agency in the Thai resort of Pattaya. Both flights were routed through Beijing to Amsterdam. From there, Mr Mehrdad (travelling on Mr Kozel's passport) was to continue to Frankfurt, while Mr Mohammadreza (using Mr Maraldi's passport) was to fly to Copenhagen.

Police chief Khalid Abu Bakar told reporters that Mr Mehrdad was apparently heading to Frankfurt to join his mother. When he failed to arrive in Germany, she had contacted the authorities in Kuala Lumpur.

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