KUALA LUMPUR, March 13 — Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi insisted today that police had visited the homes of crew members on board missing flight MH370 to “add value” to their ongoing investigation, despite earlier denials from a top police official and fellow Cabinet colleague Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein.
The Home Minister pointed out that it was “normal” for the police to track down any form of information on individuals for the purpose of assisting their probe on any matter.
“What was done by the police was to find information and to investigate. The information is to assist the search in the event there is anything found which can add value,” he was quoted as saying by local news channel Astro Awani.
Zahid’s remarks come as both Bukit Aman Criminal Investigation Department chief Datuk Hadi Ho Abdullah and Hishammuddin issued strong denials of any probe or search into either the homes of the missing crew or one of the passengers in the missing flight, who is of Uighur descent.
“Reports suggesting that the Malaysian police searched the homes of the MH370 crew are not true, and the Royal Malaysian Police have issued a statement to that effect,”Hishammuddin told reporters at a news conference at the Sama-Sama Hotel this evening.
Earlier today, Malay language daily Harian Metro ran a report quoting Hadi as saying that the Malaysian police and Interpol are combing through the personal backgrounds of passengers and crew on the missing Boeing 777-200, especially a 35-year-old passenger of Uighur descent.
The Uighurs are a Turkic ethnic group primarily living in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region in China.
It was reported that the group that killed at least 29 people and wounding 143 with long knives and daggers, in the Kunming railway station on March 1, were allegedly Muslim separatist militants from the western region of Xinjiang, suspected to be of Uighur descent.
Harian Metro’s report also claimed that the police had searched the family homes of crew members, including the pilot and co-pilot of the plane, as terrorism and sabotage has not been ruled out as a reason behind the disappearance of the airliner.
Harian Metro had cited an unnamed source saying Malaysian police and Interpol are focusing their attention on the 35-year-old man because of the skills he possessed.
According to his curriculum vitae (CV) found online, he is a PhD holder and is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Electronics Engineering at a Turkish university.
The Malay Mail Online is waiting for confirmation from the university to verify that that was his last position, prior to boarding the plane.
Besides extensive teaching and research experience in electronics, biomedical, and digital communications, the man had also spent slightly less than a year between 2004 and 2005 as a researcher at a training and simulation centre in Sweden.
The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 aircraft fell off Malaysia’s secondary radar at 1.30am on March 8.
The Beijing-bound plane carrying 239 passengers and crew members was transiting from Malaysian airspace to Vietnamese airspace and were supposed to report to Vietnam’s air traffic control but failed to do so.
Its last location known was 120 nautical miles off Kota Baru, in the South China Sea.
So far, no wreckage or signs of the aircraft and the people on board have been found, with 12 nations now involved in the massive search, with 43 vessels and 40 aircraft.
The assets are now combing 37,000 square nautical miles in the South China Sea and the Straits of Malacca, into the Andaman Sea, round the clock for vessels, and 12-hour operations during the day for air search.