Malaysia Denies Terrorists Arrested in Connection With Missing Plane

Police believe 11 arrested militants were beginning to build a new terrorist network to send fighters to Syria.

China's rescue ships search for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.
China's rescue ships sail different ways as they conduct a search operation for a missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777, flight MH370 on March 13, 2014. China's Xinhua News Agency / AP

The arrest of 11 alleged Al-Qaida militants in Malaysia last week was unconnected with the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, Malaysian police said on Sunday, according to the Star newspaper.

Various foreign newspapers, including the London Daily Mirror, reported over the weekend that Malaysian police had arrested and were interrogating Al-Qaida-linked militants in connection with the disappearance of the plane, which vanished while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing almost two months ago.

No trace of the plane has been found, despite an enormous, multi-national air and sea search

The reports "are rubbish," Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar told The Star. "This has nothing to do with the plane,"

Police believe that the militant group arrested by anti-terrorism police last week has networks in Syria and southern Philippines and was planning to send Malaysian fighters to Syria.

Police suspected that the group was recruiting foreign students via social media, Khalid said, and expected to make more arrests soon.

The Daily Mirror quoted an officer with the Counter Terrorism Division of Malaysian Special Branch as saying that the arrest of the group increased suspicion that terrorism may have been involved in the plane's disappearance.

"‘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 was reported as saying.