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Missing Malaysian plane – Attention moved to passengers and crew

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A week after Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 vanished,
investigators refocused on passengers and crew onboard after data
indicated the plane deviated due to deliberate action, Prime Minister
Najib Razak said Saturday.
“Malaysian authorities have refocused their investigation on crew and
passengers aboard,” Najib told reporters. “Evidence is consistent with
someone acting deliberately from inside the plane.”
But Najib stopped short of calling it a hijacking, saying investigators
have not made a final determination.
“Despite media reports that the plane was hijacked, we are
investigating all major possibilities on what caused MH370 to
deviate,” he said.
In addition to the shift in focus, investigators have expanded search
areas exponentially, and no are no longer combing the South China
Sea, the Prime Minister said.
“The plane’s last communication with the satellite was in one of two
possible corridors: a northern corridor stretching approximately from
the border of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to northern Thailand, or
a southern corridor stretching approximately from Indonesia to the
southern Indian ocean. The investigation team is working to further
refine the information.”
The passenger jetliner disappeared March 8, en route from Kuala
Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people aboard. It’s unclear who took the
plane or what the motive was.
“Based on new satellite information, we can say with a high degree of
certainty that the aircraft communications addressing and reporting
system was disabled just before the aircraft reached the East Coast of
peninsular Malaysia,” the Prime Minister said. “Shortly afterward,
near the border between Malaysian and Vietnamese air traffic
control, the aircraft’s transponder was switched off.”
Theories on what happened have evolved every day, complete with
satellite images with purported wreckage released by a Chinese
agency, and later debunked by Beijing.
Hours before the Prime Minister’s announcement, U.S. officials told
CNN the flight made drastic changes in altitude and direction after
disappearing from civilian radar, raising questions about who was at
the controls of the jetliner when it vanished.
The more the United States learns about the flight’s pattern, “the more
difficult to write off” the idea that some type of human intervention
was involved, one of the officials familiar with the investigation said.
CNN has learned that a classified analysis of electronic and satellite
data suggests the flight likely crashed either in the Bay of Bengal or
elsewhere in the Indian Ocean. The Prime Minister said the areas
have been searched.
“We have conducted search operations over land, in the South China
Sea, the Straits of Malacca, the Andaman Sea and the Indian
Ocean,” he said. “At every stage, we acted on the basis of verified
information, and we followed every credible lead. Sometimes these
leads have led nowhere.”
The analysis used radar data and satellite pings to calculate that the
plane diverted to the west, across the Malayan peninsula, and then
either flew in a northwest direction toward the Bay of Bengal or
southwest into the Indian Ocean.
The theory builds on earlier revelations by U.S.
officials that an automated reporting system on the
airliner was pinging satellites for up to five hours after
its last reported contact with air traffic controllers.
Inmarsat, a satellite communications company,
confirmed to CNN that automated signals were
registered on its network.
Taken together, the data point toward speculation of a
dark scenario in which someone took control of the plane
for some unknown purpose, perhaps terrorism.
That theory is buoyed by word from a senior U.S.
official familiar with the investigation that the
Malaysia Airlines plane made several significant
altitude changes and altered its course more than once
after losing contact with flight towers.
The jetliner was flying “a strange path,” the official said
on condition of anonymity. The details of the radar
readings were first reported by The New York Times
on Friday.
Malaysian military radar showed the plane climbing to
45,000 feet soon after disappearing from civilian radar
screens and then dropping to 23,000 feet before climbing
again, the official said.
The question of what happened to the jetliner has turned into one of
the biggest mysteries in aviation history, befuddling industry experts
and government officials.

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