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Disappearance of missing Malaysian jet appears ‘deliberate’

The latest news came during a press conference with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Updated at 8.56pm

imagePic: AP Photo/Lai Seng Sin

A MISSING MALAYSIAN aircraft was flown for hours in a fashion “consistent with deliberate action” after dropping off primary radar, but hijacking could not be confirmed, the country’s prime minister said today.

Final satellite communication with the Boeing 777 came more than six and a half hours after it vanished from civilian radar at 1:30am on March 8, Prime Minister Najib Razak told a nationally televised press conference.

The movement of the plane in the interim period, during which it changed direction and passed back over the Malaysian peninsula towards the Indian Ocean, was “consistent with deliberate action by someone on the plane,” Najib said.

Reuters says this police have begun searching the home of the pilot of the missing flight.

Investigation

“In view of this latest development, the Malaysian authorities have refocused their investigation into the crew and passengers on board,” Najib said, stressing they were still investigating all possibilities as to why the plane deviated so drastically from its original flight path, said Associated Press.

Najib said investigators now have a high degree of certainly that one of the plane’s communications systems – the Aircraft and Communications Addressing and Reporting System – was disabled before the aircraft reached the east coast of Malaysia.

Shortly afterward, someone on board then switched off the aircraft’s transponder, which communicates with civilian air traffic controllers.

The prime minister then confirmed that Malaysian air force defence radar picked up traces of the plane turning back westward, crossing over Peninsular Malaysia into the northern stretches of the Strait of Malacca. Authorities previously had said this radar data could not be verified.

He then said the last confirmed signal between the plane and a satellite came at 8.11am Malaysian time — 7 hours and 31 minutes after takeoff. Airline officials have said the plane had enough fuel to fly for up to about eight hours.

“The investigations team is making further calculations which will indicate how far the aircraft may have flown after this last point of contact,” he said.

imageRelatives of Chinese passengers aboard missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 wait for information at a hotel in Beijing, China. Pic: AP Photo/Ng Han Guan

He also said that there is no confirmation that the missing Malaysian plane was hijacked.

According to AP, Najib also said that authorities are now trying to trace the airplane across two possible “corridors” — a northern corridor from the border of Kazakstan and Turkmenistan through to northern Thailand, and a southern corridor from Indonesia to the southern Indian Ocean.

imageA candlelight vigil for passengers on the missing flight, in Yangzhou. Pic: AP Photo

Razak said that Malaysia was ending a search in the South China Sea for the jetliner after investigations indicated the missing plane likely turned far to the west.

“We are ending our operation in the South China Sea and reassessing the deployment of our assets,” Najib told reporters.

- © AFP, 2014 – additional reporting AP

Read: US Navy sends second ship to search for missing airliner>

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