KUALA LUMPUR - A Philippine intelligence agency has cleared Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53, of having any link to terrorist groups. However, the agency is still corroborating information with other intelligence agencies involved in the investigations of the pilot of the missing Malaysia Airlines jet.
The intelligence report obtained by The Straits Times stated that Capt Zaharie had studied and was an aviation cadet at the Philippine Airlines Aviation School, which is better known as PAL Aviation School. The school is a training facility maintained by its parent company Philippine Airlines.
The report stated that Capt Zaharie went to the school in 1980 and completed the course in 1981. His classmates described him as cheerful and friendly. His passion for airplanes left a deep impression on several of the school's instructors. He was also observed to be very religious in his chosen belief, a source close to the agency revealed to The Straits Times.
Capt Zaharie has three grown-up children, and is a grandfather. It has been reported that he is a supporter of opposition politician Anwar Ibrahim.
Last Saturday, police searched his home in Shah Alam and removed a flight simulator from there for investigation. Capt Zaharie, who joined MAS in 1981, has clocked more than 18,000 flight hours.
A former MAS pilot's wife said her husband had partnered Capt Zaharie in flying the Boeing 777-200 for close to a decade with the airline. She said her family and friends who know the pilot were distraught at allegations that he deliberately diverted the plane.
"There has not been any substantial evidence to suggest that. It is quite difficult to accept these allegations when these are people who go to work just like everyone else. The only difference is that their work is to fly an airplane," she said, declining to be named.
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