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Malaysian leader: Flight MH 370 plane's disappearance 'deliberate'



By EILEEN NG and IAN MADER

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) - The missing Malaysian jetliner was deliberately diverted and continued flying for more than six hours after losing contact with the ground, meaning it could have gone as far northwest as Kazakhstan or into the Indian Ocean's southern reaches, Malaysia's leader said Saturday.

Prime Minister Najib Razak's statement confirmed days of mounting speculation that the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 to Beijing more than a week ago was not accidental. It refocused the investigation into the flight's crew and passengers and underlined the massive task for searchers who already have been scouring vast areas of ocean.

"Clearly the search for MH370 has entered a new phase," Najib said at a televised news conference.

Najib stressed that investigators were looking into all possibilities as to why the Boeing 777 deviated so drastically from its original flight path, saying authorities could not confirm whether it was a hijacking. Earlier Saturday, a Malaysian official said the plane had been hijacked, though he added that no motive had been established and no demands had been made known.

"In view of this latest development, the Malaysian authorities have refocused their investigation into the crew and passengers on board," Najib told reporters, reading from a written statement but not taking any questions.

Police on Saturday drove into the residential compound where the missing plane's pilot lives in Kuala Lumpur, according a guard and several local reporters who were barred from entering the complex. Authorities have said they will investigate the pilots as part of their probe, but have released no information about how they are progressing.

Experts have previously said that whoever disabled the plane's communication systems and then flew the jet must have had a high degree of technical knowledge and flying experience. One possibility they have raised was that one of the pilots wanted to commit suicide.

The plane was carrying 239 people when it departed for an overnight flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing at 12:40 a.m. on March 8. Its communications with civilian air controllers were severed at about 1:20 a.m., and the jet went missing - heralding one of the most puzzling mysteries in modern aviation history.

Investigators now have a high degree of certainty 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, Najib said. Shortly afterward, someone on board then switched off the aircraft's transponder, which communicates with civilian air traffic controllers.

Najib then confirmed that Malaysian air force defense 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.

"These movements are consistent with deliberate action by someone on the plane," Najib said.

Although the aircraft was flying virtually blind to air traffic controllers at this point, onboard equipment continued to send pings to satellites.

The prime minister said the last confirmed signal between the plane and a satellite came at 8:11 a.m. - 7 hours and 31 minutes after takeoff. This was more than five hours later than the previous time given by Malaysian authorities as the possible last contact.

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," Najib said.

He said authorities had determined that the plane's last communication with a satellite was in one of two possible "corridors" - a northern one from northern Thailand through to the border of the Central Asian countries Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, and a southern one from Indonesia to the southern Indian Ocean.

Searching in the South China Sea, where the plane first lost contact, has ended, Najib said.

Two-thirds of the plane's 227 passengers were Chinese, and China's government has been under pressure to give relatives firm news of the plane's fate.

In a stinging commentary, the Chinese government's Xinhua News Agency accused Malaysia of dragging its feet in releasing information. Information released by the Malaysian leader is "painfully belated," the commentary said. It said delays had resulted in wasted efforts and strained the nerves of relatives.

"Given today's technology, the delay smacks of either dereliction of duty or reluctance to share information in a full and timely manner," Xinhua said. "That would be intolerable."

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said China had urged Malaysia to release more details about the new search area.

The northern route described by Najib might have taken the plane through a region home to extremist Islamist groups and unstable governments, as well as remote, sparsely populated areas. But the region also hosts U.S. military bases with powerful surveillance capabilities.

Flying south would put the plane over the Indian Ocean, with an average depth of 3,890 meters (12,762 feet) and thousands of kilometers (miles) from the nearest land mass.

Malaysia has faced accusations that it isn't sharing all its information or suspicions about the plane's final movements, which have been the subject of constant media leaks both in Malaysia and the United States. Najib said that he understood the need for families to receive information, but that his government wanted to release only fully corroborated information.

He said that from Day One, the country had been sharing information with international investigators, even when it meant placing "national security concerns" second to the search, a likely reference to its release of military radar data. U.S., British and Malaysian air safety investigators have been on the ground in Malaysia to assist with the investigation.

In the Chinese capital, relatives of passengers who have anxiously awaited news at a hotel near Beijing's airport said they felt deceived at not being told earlier about the plane's last signal. "We are going through a roller coaster, and we feel helpless and powerless," said a woman, who declined to give her name.

At least one of the people waiting at the hotel saw a glimmer of hope in word that the plane's disappearance was a deliberate act, rather than a crash. "It's very good," said the woman, who gave only her surname, Wen.

Malaysian police have already said they are looking at the psychological state, family life and connections of pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53, and co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27. Both have been described as respectable, community-minded men.

Zaharie joined Malaysia Airlines in 1981 and had more than 18,000 hours of experience. His Facebook page showed an aviation enthusiast who flew remote-controlled aircraft, posting pictures of his collection, which included a lightweight twin-engine helicopter and an amphibious aircraft.

Fariq was contemplating marriage after having just graduated to the cockpit of a Boeing 777. He has drawn scrutiny after the revelation that in 2011, he and another pilot invited two women aboard their aircraft to sit in the cockpit for a flight from Phuket, Thailand, to Kuala Lumpur.

Fourteen countries are involved in the search, which is using 43 ships and 58 aircraft.

A U.S. P-8A Poseidon, the most advanced long-range anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare aircraft in the world, was to arrive over the weekend and sweep parts of the Indian Ocean. It has a nine-member crew and has advanced surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, the U.S. Defense Department said in a statement.

Join the discussion

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Blessed March 16 2014 at 2:56 AM

Imagine being a Family member or friend of one of the people on this flight! Your mind spinning with thoughts of what might have happened. Sleep is no longer something you do at night but a reaction to exhaustion and it mercifully consumes you for a few minutes or hours at any time of day or night. Until you wake up in the nightmare again. Eating is an after thought. Work is done in a trance and only because the bills still go on-but for that you'd be camped outside whatever agency seems to be revealing the most information. Faith is shaken to the very core. Merciful God, please, this has got to stop! I Pray for every one of the people who are affected by this cruel and tragic circumstance, including us arm chair detectives who have some great ideas about how to find the craft but the ideas go no farther than these cyber pages where we all post and read posts. I've a feeling the latest craft to join the hunt, sent by the US - that P-8A Poseidon- will be the one to find out the truth. Bless all of you who hold these people in your Prayers or if you are not of a Faith, Bless you anyway for the good thoughts you are sending their way.

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Carole March 16 2014 at 12:16 AM

It has been established that whoever flew the plane for up to 7 hours was a highly skilled aviator.
That being the case, he is going to allow that plane to run out of fuel?? No. Pilot suicide?? Why would he fly the aircraft for so long? That makes no sense either. The person that tok took this plane to who knows where knew exactly what he was doing. This had to be planned long in advance. Most are saying this aircraft is at the bottom of the ocean. I do not believe that. It landed somewhere but the question is where? And also why? I just pray the passengers are still alive but sadly it is doubtful.

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Phyllis March 15 2014 at 7:38 PM

Dah!

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mapLink20 March 15 2014 at 7:58 PM

“Invisibility cloak is a poorly chosen term,” Thomas Way, associate professor of computing science at Villanova University, wrote to FoxNews.com in an email. “Invisible to what? We already have stealth aircraft that are invisible to radar (usually), but there is absolutely no way given our current understanding of physics that something could be made invisible to the naked eye… If that’s what they are claiming, it’s a hoax.”

In Electronic Warfare jargon, however, electronic countermeasure exists. ECM is an electrical or electronic device designed to trick or deceive radar, sonar or other detection systems, like infrared (IR) or lasers. On the other hand, some experts dispute these new technologies can work at all.

ECM can be used offensively and defensively to deny targeting information to an enemy.
The system can “make the real target appear to disappear or move about randomly. It is used effectively to protect aircraft from guided missiles.

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JMaksim March 15 2014 at 6:22 PM

Suggestion to the Chinese government: stop bashing the Malaysian government and beef up your search efforts. China appears to be trying to score political points. Foul!

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2 replies
mnewman737 JMaksim March 24 2014 at 5:37 PM

This is not a time for political ambitions. The governments involved must put their differences aside and get to the bottom of one of the world's greatest aviation mysteries.

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mapLink20 March 15 2014 at 7:13 PM

So... pricecrusher.. Asks for discussions 20 Passengers From Missing Malaysia Flight Were DOD Employees Involved In Electronic Warfare & Weapons That Can “Cloak” Or Make Planes Invisible - See more at: http://govtslaves.info/20-passengers-missing-malaysia-flight-dod-employees-involved-electronic-warfare-weapons-can-cloak-make-planes-invisible/#sthash.ZYIoQ3ZY.dpuf

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kzof March 15 2014 at 1:13 PM

I hope it not being packed with God knows what as we speak.

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thomas March 15 2014 at 12:34 PM

I can not imagine what the families are going through. We are all wishing for a miracle. It is painful to observe authorities fumble over what to say or not. It is equally frustrating to listen to speculations that are raving wild. And what are the conspirators hoping to accomplish? What if they are right and the 1 in a billion shot turns out to be right. Then we have much bigger problems ahead.
It is news - and I follow as well. But people there are hundreds of people in mourning clinching on to hope. Lets all hope for a miracle and respect the families at this point. I am sure it will be plenty of time to point fingers and say"I told you so". My thought are with the souls on the plane and their families .

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Annie March 15 2014 at 11:51 AM

This is an interesting article and explains a lot...
http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/brainiac/2014/03/an_mit_expert_o.html

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sandrakaywinter March 15 2014 at 12:39 PM

A plane goes missing and a lot of countries get caught doing things they shouldn't be doing, using their technology to spy on other countries, and their air space. And, a search for a missing plane is bringing all of that to light. It would make sense that many countries are reluctant to divulge how they got the information they got, even if they did divulge it. With all the technology in the world today, it seems highly unlikely that somebody doesn't know something about this plane that they are not sharing for fear of being "caught."

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