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Sunday, March 9, 2014 - 2:09am
(CNN) — Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 may have changed course and turned back toward Kuala Lumpur -- but there were no indications from the pilot that he was doing so, officials said at a news conference Sunday.
Officials said a recording on radar indicated the plane's change of course.
The latest revelation added to the questions that have puzzled authorities since the commercial jetliner, carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew members, went missing early Saturday while flying from the Malaysian capital to Beijing: what happened to the plane, why was no distress signal issued, and who exactly was aboard?
Forty ships and 22 planes were scouring a portion of the South China Sea on Sunday for any sign of where the flight may have gone down, officials said at the news briefing.
The massive, multinational team is focusing its efforts near the Gulf of Thiland, an inlet of the South China Sea about 90 miles south of Vietnam's Tho Chu Island.
It is the same area where a Vietnamese search plane spotted oil slicks that stretched between six and nine miles, the Vietnam government's official news agency reported..
Malaysian authorities have not yet confirmed the Vietnamese report.
Passenger manifest questioned
Bits and pieces of information have begun to form, but it remains unclear how they fit into the bigger picture, if at all.
For instance, after the airline released a manifest, Austria denied that one of its citizens was aboard the flight. The Austrian citizen was safe and sound, and his passport had been stolen two years ago, Austrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Weiss said.
Similarly, Italy's foreign ministry confirmed none of its citizens were on Flight 370, even though an Italian was listed on the manifest.
On Saturday, Italian police visited the home of the parents of Luigi Maraldi, the man whose name appeared on the manifest, to inform them about the missing flight, said a police official in Cesena, in northern Italy.
Maraldi's father, Walter, told police he had just spoken to his son, who was fine and not on the missing flight, said the official, who is not authsorized to speak to the media. Maraldi was vacationing in Thailand, his father said.
The police official said Maraldi had reported his passport stolen in Malaysia last August and had obtained a new one.
"No nexus to terrorism yet," a U.S. intelligence official said, "although that's by no means definitive. We're still tracking."
Malaysian authorities have been in contact with counterterrorism organizations about possible passport issues, Malaysia's transportation minister Hishamuddin Hussein said. He did not state how many passport issues there are, saying authorities are looking at the whole manifest.
The U.S. 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, said a U.S. law enforcement official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Of the two passports in question, the Italian one had been reported stolen and was in Interpol's database, CNN Law Enforcement Analyst Tom Fuentes said, citing sources at Interpol.
Additionally, no inquiry was made by Malaysia Airlines to determine if any passengers on the flight were traveling on stolen passports, he said. Many airlines do not check the database, he said.
During the news conference in Kuala Lumpur, Rahman declined to say whether the airline or Malaysian authorities had checked the database.