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PARIS -- France has opened an "involuntary homicide" investigation after the Air Malaysia jet vanished without a trace, authorities confirmed Tuesday.

A mother and her two teenage children were among four French nationals aboard the Boeing 777 which was flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Another French-Chinese national was accompanying the family.

Investigations are opened in automatically by French prosecutors in such situations, as they enable the lawyers of victims' families to access dossiers containing evidence.

- Nancy Ing