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Wednesday 17 September 2014

Malaysian police search home of missing plane's pilot - official

Passengers of MH370 may be held hostage, claim US investigators

Published 15/03/2014 | 02:30

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A woman writes a message for passengers aboard a missing Malaysia Airlines plane, at a shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Saturday, March 15, 2014. Investigators have concluded that one or more people with significant flying experience hijacked the missing Malaysia Airlines jet, switched off communication devices and steered it off-course, a Malaysian government official involved in the investigation said Saturday. (AP Photo/Lai Seng Sin)
A woman writes a message for passengers aboard a missing Malaysia Airlines plane, at a shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Saturday, March 15, 2014. Investigators have concluded that one or more people with significant flying experience hijacked the missing Malaysia Airlines jet, switched off communication devices and steered it off-course, a Malaysian government official involved in the investigation said Saturday. (AP Photo/Lai Seng Sin)
Military officer Nguyen Tran looks out from a Vietnam Air Force AN-26 aircraft during a mission to find the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, off Con Dao island. Reuters
Military officer Nguyen Tran looks out from a Vietnam Air Force AN-26 aircraft during a mission to find the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, off Con Dao island. Reuters
Erny Khairul, whose husband Mohd Khairul Amri Selamat was onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, kisses her daughter inside a hotel they are staying at in Putrajaya March 11, 2014

Police began searching the home of the pilot of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight on Saturday, after the country's prime minister confirmed the plane was suspected to have been deliberately diverted, a senior police official told Reuters.

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Police officers arrived at the home of the captain, 53-year-old Zaharie Ahmad Shah, on Saturday afternoon, shortly after Prime Minister Najib Razak ended his news conference.

Investigators had confirmed that an aircraft tracked by military radar was the lost Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, after its communications were likely switched off before it reached the east coast of Malaysia a week ago, Najib said.

Earlier it emeged an investigation into the missing plane MH370 has concluded that one or more people with flying experience switched off the communications devices and deliberately steered it off-course, a Malaysian official said today.

He also called the disappearance a "hijacking" although no motive has been established and it is still not clear where the plane ended up.

The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 may have been "an act of piracy" and the possibility that its hundreds of passengers are being held at an unknown location has not been ruled out, US investigators said last night.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said  that the movements of a missing plane were consistent with a deliberate act by someone who turned the jet back across Malaysia and onwards to the west.

Investigators had confirmed that an aircraft tracked by military radar was the lost Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, after its communications were likely switched off before it reached the east coast of Malaysia a week ago, Najib told a news conference.

"Despite media reports the plane was hijacked, I wish to be very clear, we are still investigating all possibilities as to what caused MH370 to deviate," Najib said.

However, after the Boeing 777 vanished en route to Beijing with 239 people on board, officials are examining the possibility the flight was deliberately steered off course and landed by an unknown hijacker.

There were also claims yesterday that the plane flew on for more than five hours after it disappeared in the early hours of Saturday.

In theory, MH370 could have flown more than 2,200 nautical miles, meaning it may have reached as far as the Indian border with Pakistan.

SEARCH

As an international fleet of more than 50 ships pushed further into the Indian Ocean to search for signs of a crash, US and Malaysian investigators believe "human intervention" could have played a role in the disappearance.

US authorities think the aircraft continued to send faint transmissions, or "pings", for several hours after the flight was last in contact with the ground.

The pings, sent automatically by the 777's internal systems, raise the possibility that the flight was still airborne but that whoever was in control had deliberately severed contact with the ground.

The military radar, more powerful than its civilian counterparts, suggests that the plane may have been following a series of established "way points" – geographic turning points used by pilots to navigate their course.

The flight reportedly disappeared off military radar as it flew north-west of Malaysia towards the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, an Indian territory made up of 572 small islands in the Indian Ocean.

Hishammuddin Hussein, the Malaysian transport and defence minister, refused to comment on the military radar reports but said his country was "following all leads".

He said that police had not yet searched the home of Zaharie Ahmad Shah, the experienced Malaysia airlines captain of MH370.

The respected aviator built a personal flight simulator at his house on the edge of Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital.

AIRBORNE

While the naval search for the MH370 began in the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea, evidence that the flight remained airborne for hours after it was last seen has led to a massive expansion of the search grid.

A fleet of 57 ships from 13 different countries is now actively hunting through the vast expanse of the Indian Ocean, where the average depth is 13,000 feet – nearly 10 times deeper than the Gulf of Thailand.

The Indian navy is taking the lead on the land and water search around the Andaman Islands.

The population of 380,000 is spread across only 37 of the islands, making it possible that the aircraft crashed on land without being noticed.

Many of the islanders have little contact with the outside world and some of its tribes are considered among the most isolated people on the planet.

Independent News Service

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