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Aerial Hunt for Missing Korean Jet Suspended

Associated Press

Officials suspended an aerial search for a missing South Korean jetliner Thursday and said they are convinced that it exploded and plunged into the Andaman Sea with 115 people aboard.

South Korean officials say they believe a bomb was planted on the Korean Air jet and blame Communist North Korea. The Boeing 707 disappeared Sunday on a flight from Baghdad, Iraq, to Seoul via Abu Dhabi and Bangkok, Thailand.

In Manama, Bahrain, an Asian woman who made part of the flight and took poison before she could be questioned about it, was recovering but would not talk to anyone. She and a male companion, who died after taking poison, were traveling as father and daughter on forged Japanese passports.

Ground Search Continues

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Thai police involved in four days of searching rugged terrain on the Thai-Burmese frontier said the aircraft may have crashed in Burmese jungle, but Chamlong Salikhupta of the Communications Ministry told a news conference:

“We are 99% sure the airplane exploded and fell into the Andaman Sea. After four days of intense search, all recovery units have reason to believe the aircraft plunged into the Andaman Sea but we are continuing the ground search as requested by the South Korean government.”

He gave no reasons for the conclusion, except that the plane had not been found in the jungle.

Its planned route would have taken Flight 858 over the Andaman Sea within Burmese waters, across the Tenasserim Peninsula in Burma and toward Bangkok for a refueling stop.

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Burma said aerial searches of the water and peninsula revealed nothing.

Regains Consciousness

The woman in Bahrain was described as greatly improved after regaining consciousness for the second time since taking poison. She drank some coffee and asked her doctors for food, senior Bahrain government officials said.

When two Japanese and a South Korean diplomat arrived at the military hospital to question her, however, “she just closed her eyes and did not respond,” said the acting Japanese ambassador, Takao Natsume.

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Officials of both countries have said they believe the man and woman to be Korean residents of Japan, possibly linked with pro-North Korean organizations there. Neither has been identified.


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