Fariq Abdul Hamid, flight MH370's co-pilot, tried to make in-flight cellphone call, according to report

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Fariq Abdul Hamid, flight MH370's co-pilot, tried to make in-flight cellphone call, according to report
Fariq Abdul Hamid (left) and Zaharie Ahmad Shah, the co-pilot and captain of missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH 370 as pictured in a post on Facebook.
A Muslim boy leaves a mosque after Friday prayers, just down the road from the home of Fariq Abdul Hamid, co-pilot of the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner MH370, center, Friday, March 14, 2014 in Shah Alam, Malaysia. The pilots of the missing Malaysia Airlines passenger jet were a contented middle-aged family man passionate enough about flying to build his own simulator and a 27-year-old contemplating marriage who had just graduated to the cockpit of the Boeing 777. Details about the men have emerged from interviews with neighbors, Malaysia Airlines staff, a religious leader and from social networks and news reports in Malaysia and Australia.(AP Photo/Eileen Ng)
Muslim men leave a mosque after Friday prayers, just down the road of the home of Fariq Abdul Hamid, co-pilot of the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner MH370, center, Friday, March 14, 2014 in Shah Alam, Malaysia. The pilots of the missing Malaysia Airlines passenger jet were a contented middle-aged family man passionate enough about flying to build his own simulator and a 27-year-old contemplating marriage who had just graduated to the cockpit of the Boeing 777. Details about the men have emerged from interviews with neighbors, Malaysia Airlines staff, a religious leader and from social networks and news reports in Malaysia and Australia.(AP Photo/Eileen Ng)
A Muslim woman walks past the missing Malaysia Airlines co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid's house in Shah Alam, outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Friday, March 14, 2014. The pilots of the missing Malaysia Airlines passenger jet were a contented middle-aged family man passionate enough about flying to build his own simulator and the 27-year-old contemplating marriage who had just graduated to the cockpit of the Boeing 777. Details about the men have emerged from interviews with neighbors, Malaysia Airlines staff, a religious leader and from social networks and news reports in Malaysia and Australia. (AP Photo/Lai Seng Sin)
A police car comes out of a main gate of the missing Malaysia Airlines pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah's house in Shah Alam, outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Saturday, March 15, 2014. Malaysian police have already said they are looking at the psychological state, the family life and connections of pilot Zaharie, 53, and co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27. Both have been described as respectable, community-minded men. The Malaysian jetliner missing for more than a week had its communications deliberately disabled and its last signal came about 7 1/2 hours after takeoff, meaning it could have ended up as far as Kazakhstan or into the southern reaches of the Indian Ocean, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said Saturday. (AP Photo) MALAYSIA OUT
Journalists wait at a main gate of Zaharie Ahmad Shah's house, the pilot of the missing Malaysia Airlines plane, in Shah Alam, outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Sunday, March 16, 2014. Attention focused Sunday on the pilots of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight after Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced findings so far that suggest someone with intimate knowledge of the Boeing 777?s cockpit seized control of the plane and sent it off-course. (AP Photo/Lai Seng Sin)
Security guards stand at a main gate of the missing Malaysia Airlines pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah's house in Shah Alam, outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Saturday, March 15, 2014. Malaysian police have already said they are looking at the psychological state, the family life and connections of pilot Zaharie, 53, and co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27. Both have been described as respectable, community-minded men. The Malaysian jetliner missing for more than a week had its communications deliberately disabled and its last signal came about 7 1/2 hours after takeoff, meaning it could have ended up as far as Kazakhstan or into the southern reaches of the Indian Ocean, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said Saturday. (AP Photo/Lai Seng Sin)
A security guard stands at a main gate of the missing Malaysia Airlines pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah's house in Shah Alam, outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Saturday, March 15, 2014. Malaysian police have already said they are looking at the psychological state, the family life and connections of pilot Zaharie, 53, and co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27. Both have been described as respectable, community-minded men. The Malaysian jetliner missing for more than a week had its communications deliberately disabled and its last signal came about 7 1/2 hours after takeoff, meaning it could have ended up as far as Kazakhstan or into the southern reaches of the Indian Ocean, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said Saturday. (AP Photo/Lai Seng Sin)
Journalists attempt to get information from Malaysian police officers after they came out of the missing Malaysia Airlines pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah's house in Shah Alam, outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Saturday, March 15, 2014. Malaysian police have already said they are looking at the psychological state, the family life and connections of pilot Zaharie, 53, and co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27. Both have been described as respectable, community-minded men. The Malaysian jetliner missing for more than a week had its communications deliberately disabled and its last signal came about 7 1/2 hours after takeoff, meaning it could have ended up as far as Kazakhstan or into the southern reaches of the Indian Ocean, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said Saturday. (AP Photo) MALAYSIA OUT
Security guards stand at a main gate of the missing Malaysia Airlines pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah's house in Shah Alam, outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Saturday, March 15, 2014. Malaysian police have already said they are looking at the psychological state, the family life and connections of pilot Zaharie, 53, and co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27. Both have been described as respectable, community-minded men. The Malaysian jetliner missing for more than a week had its communications deliberately disabled and its last signal came about 7 1/2 hours after takeoff, meaning it could have ended up as far as Kazakhstan or into the southern reaches of the Indian Ocean, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said Saturday. (AP Photo/Lai Seng Sin)
Journalists wait outside the missing Malaysia Airlines pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah's house in Shah Alam, outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Saturday, March 15, 2014. Malaysian police have already said they are looking at the psychological state, the family life and connections of pilot Zaharie, 53, and co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27. Both have been described as respectable, community-minded men. The Malaysian jetliner missing for more than a week had its communications deliberately disabled and its last signal came about 7 1/2 hours after takeoff, meaning it could have ended up as far as Kazakhstan or into the southern reaches of the Indian Ocean, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said Saturday. (AP Photo/Lai Seng Sin)
A security guard stands at a main gate of the missing Malaysia Airlines pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah's house in Shah Alam, outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Saturday, March 15, 2014. Malaysian police have already said they are looking at the psychological state, the family life and connections of pilot Zaharie, 53, and co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27. Both have been described as respectable, community-minded men. The Malaysian jetliner missing for more than a week had its communications deliberately disabled and its last signal came about 7 1/2 hours after takeoff, meaning it could have ended up as far as Kazakhstan or into the southern reaches of the Indian Ocean, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said Saturday. (AP Photo/Lai Seng Sin)
A Muslim man walks past the missing Malaysia Airlines co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid's house after a prayer in Shah Alam, outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Saturday, March 15, 2014. Malaysian police have already said they are looking at the psychological state, the family life and connections of pilot Zaharie, 53, and co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27. Both have been described as respectable, community-minded men. The Malaysian jetliner missing for more than a week had its communications deliberately disabled and its last signal came about 7 1/2 hours after takeoff, meaning it could have ended up as far as Kazakhstan or into the southern reaches of the Indian Ocean, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said Saturday. (AP Photo/Lai Seng Sin)
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(Reuters) - Investigators probing the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 suspect that the co-pilot of the jetliner tried to make a call with his cellphone after the plane was diverted from its scheduled route, Malaysia's New Straits Times reported sources as saying on Saturday.

The newspaper cited unidentified investigative sources as saying the attempted call from co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid's phone was picked up by a cellphone tower as the plane was about 200 nautical miles northwest of the west coast state of Penang. That was around where military radar made its last sighting of the missing jet at 2:15 a.m. local time on March 8.

"The telco's (telecommunications company's) tower established the call that he was trying to make. On why the call was cut off, it was likely because the aircraft was fast moving away from the tower and had not come under the coverage of the next one," the New Straits Times cited a source as saying.

Government officials could not immediately be reached for comment on the report. The New Straits Times quoted acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein as saying that the report needed to be verified.

But he appeared to cast doubt on the report by saying: "If this did happen, we would have known about it earlier."

The New Straits Times cited separate investigative sources as saying that a signal had been picked up from Fariq's cellphone, but that it could have resulted from the device being switched on rather than being used to make a call.

Malaysia is focusing its criminal investigation on the cabin crew and the pilots of the plane -- 53-year-old captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah and 27-year old Fariq -- after clearing all 227 passengers of any involvement, police have said.

Investigators believe that someone with detailed knowledge of both the Boeing 777-200ER and commercial aviation navigation switched off the plane's communications systems before diverting it thousands of miles off its scheduled course.

The search for the missing jetliner in the southern Indian ocean resumed on Saturday, amid fears that batteries powering signals from the black box recorder on board may have died. (Reporting by Stuart Grudgings; Editing by Stephen Powell)

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