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Malaysia Officials Open Criminal Inquiry Into Missing Jet

World  (tags: malaysia, investigation, Missing Airliner )

- 1828 days ago -
The search for Flight 370 turned into a criminal investigation on Saturday, after Malaysia declared that the plane had been deliberately diverted and then flown for as long as seven hours toward an unknown point far from its scheduled route[....]


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Kit B (276)
Sunday March 16, 2014, 10:02 am
Photo Credit: Wong Maye-E/Associated Press

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — The search for Flight 370 turned into a criminal investigation on Saturday, after Malaysia declared that the plane had been deliberately diverted and then flown for as long as seven hours toward an unknown point far from its scheduled route of Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia said Saturday afternoon that he would seek the help of governments across a large expanse of Asia in the search for the Boeing 777, which has been missing for a week and had 239 people on board. The Malaysian authorities released a map showing that the last satellite signal received from the plane had been sent from a point somewhere along one of two arcs spanning large distances across

As part of the investigation, police officers were seen Saturday going to the home of the flight’s pilot, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, in a gated compound, and the Malaysian news media reported that a search had taken place. A spokeswoman for the Royal Malaysia Police would neither confirm nor deny the reports but said there would be a news conference on Sunday.

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A satellite orbiting 22,250 miles over the middle of the Indian Ocean received the transmission that, based on the angle from which the plane sent it, came from somewhere along one of the two arcs. One arc runs from the southern border of Kazakhstan in Central Asia to northern Thailand, passing over some hot spots of global insurgency and highly militarized areas. The other arc runs from near Jakarta to the Indian Ocean, roughly 1,000 miles off the west coast of Australia.

The plane changed course after it took off. “These movements are consistent with deliberate action by someone on the plane,” Mr. Najib said.

He said one communications system had been disabled as the plane flew over the northeast coast of Malaysia. A second system, a transponder aboard the craft, abruptly stopped broadcasting its location, altitude, speed and other information at 1:21 a.m., while the plane was a third of the way across the Gulf of Thailand from Malaysia to Vietnam.

Military radar data subsequently showed that the plane turned and flew west across northern Malaysia before arcing out over the wide northern end of the Strait of Malacca, headed at cruising altitude for the Indian Ocean.

The flight had been scheduled to land at 6:30 a.m. in Beijing, so when its last signal was received, at 8:11 a.m., Mr. Najib said, it could have been nearly out of fuel. “The investigation team is making further calculations, which will indicate how far the aircraft may have flown after the last point of contact,” Mr. Najib said, reading a statement in English. “Due to the type of satellite data, we are unable to confirm the precise location of the plane when it last made contact with a satellite.”

The northern arc Mr. Najib described passes near some of the world’s most volatile countries that are home to insurgent groups, but also over areas with a strong military presence and robust air defense networks, some run by the American military.

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The arc passes close to northern Iran, through Afghanistan and northern Pakistan, and through northern India and the Himalayas and Myanmar. An aircraft flying on that arc would have to pass through air defense networks in India and Pakistan, whose mutual border is heavily militarized, as well as through Afghanistan, where the United States and other NATO countries have operated air bases for more than a decade.

Air bases near that arc include Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, where the United States Air Force’s 455th Air Expeditionary Wing is based, and an Indian air base, Hindon Air Force Station.

The southern arc, from Indonesia to the southern Indian Ocean, travels over open water with few islands. If the aircraft took that path, it might have passed near the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. These remote Australian islands, with a population of fewer than 1,000 people, have a small airport.

After Mr. Najib’s statement on Saturday, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs demanded to know more, and said China was sending technical experts to Malaysia. Two-thirds of the people on the jet were Chinese citizens.

A ministry spokesman, Qin Gang, said China would shift its search planes and ships to areas west of Malaysia. That region includes countries that have tensions with China, including India. Mr. Qin said China would seek the cooperation of any countries affected by the redeployment.

China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, convened ministries and agencies on Saturday to discuss the developments. Even with a vastly larger area to search, the officials insisted that the effort must continue with increased vigor.

“The search remains the most pressing and No. 1. task for now,” said an the account of the meeting on the ministry website. The officials said the broader search would cover land as well as sea.

In Washington, the Malaysian announcement did little to change American investigators’ perspectives on what happened to the plane.

“It doesn’t mean anything; all it is is a theory,” one senior American official said. “Find the plane, find the black boxes and then we can figure out what happened. It has to be based on something, and until they have something more to go on it’s all just theories.” The investigator spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the inquiry.

American investigators have been provided with much of the flight data obtained from radar and satellites, but they say they have far less information about what the Malaysian government has uncovered about the pilots and passengers or the Malaysian inquiry. Soon after the plane disappeared, F.B.I. agents and other American investigators “scrubbed” the names of the pilots and passengers — including two Iranian men who traveled on stolen passports — to determine whether they had any connection to terrorists and found none, according to the officials.

Officials in Washington say they are frustrated because they believe that the F.B.I. could be of substantial assistance.

The Malaysian government has said that analyzing this data is a slow and painstaking process.

David Learmount, operations and safety editor for Flightglobal, a news and data service for the aviation sector, said that the Malaysian government could have acted far sooner on the information pointing to someone’s seizing control of the plane.

Mikael Robertsson, a co-founder of Flightradar24, a global aviation tracking service, said the way the plane’s communications had been shut down pointed to the involvement of someone with considerable aviation expertise and knowledge of the air route, possibly a crew member, willing or unwilling.

The Boeing’s transponder was switched off just as the plane passed from Malaysian to Vietnamese air traffic control space, thus making it more likely that the plane’s absence from communications would not arouse attention, Mr. Robertsson said by telephone from Sweden.

“Always when you fly, you are in contact with air traffic control in some country,” he said. “Instead of contacting the Vietnam air traffic control, the transponder signal was turned off, so I think the timing of turning off the signal just after you have left Malaysian air traffic control indicates someone did this on purpose, and he found the perfect moment when he wasn’t in control by Malaysia or Vietnam. He was like in no-man’s country.”

The signs thus indicated involvement of the crew, Mr. Robertsson said, but he emphasized that those signs were not definitive, nor did they prove whether any involvement was willing or coerced.

Xu Ke, a former commercial pilot who has advised the Chinese government on aviation security, said the details suggested that at least one crew member, most likely one of the pilots, was involved in seizing control of the aircraft, either willingly or under coercion.

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The timing of turning off the transponder suggests that this involved someone with knowledge of how to avoid air traffic control without attracting attention,” Mr. Xu said in a telephone interview. “You needed to know this plane, and you also needed to know this route.”

Especially since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, Mr. Xu said, security on cockpit doors has been reinforced so that forced entry would be difficult without the pilots’ having ample time to send a warning signal.

“We have to be careful about our words and conclusions, and examine all the possibilities, but the likelihood that a pilot was involved appears very likely,” Mr. Xu said. “The Boeing 777 is a relatively new and big plane, so it wouldn’t be anyone who could do this, not even someone who has flown smaller passenger planes, even smaller Boeings.”

The possible northern corridor Mr. Najib described bristles with military radar, making it more likely that the plane either went south or, if it did fly north, did not make it far, Mr. Robertsson said.

“I don’t really think that the aircraft could have flown so far over the land, because it would need to pass over so many countries that someone should have picked it up,” he said. “If they had taken the northern corridor, they could have gone down before they reached land, so it’s also possible.”

Huang Huikang, China’s ambassador to Malaysia, sat impassively in a light gray suit in the front row of Mr. Najib’s news conference, at an airport hotel here on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur.

On Saturday, the announcement from Malaysia brought dismay in Beijing among family members and friends of the many Chinese who were on the missing plane. For a week, the families and friends have gathered at a hotel, receiving updates from Malaysia Airlines employees and waiting for news. Several managed to find some relief in the announcement that at least one person had apparently seized control of the plane, because that still left a faint hope that the passengers were somehow alive somewhere.

On Saturday, James Wood, the brother of Philip Wood, an American passenger on the flight, said the wait had been difficult.

“The days sometimes drag by,” he said, “and we’re trying to turn off the TV because it’s just a little too hard to handle on a constant basis.” He said the news that the search had turned into a criminal investigation was difficult. But the family is still hoping that Mr. Wood is alive.

“We have to. We just have to,” the brother said.

According to a person who has been briefed on the progress of the investigation, the two “corridors” were derived from calculations by engineers from the satellite communications company Inmarsat, which were provided to investigators. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because details of the search remain confidential.

The older satellite communications box fitted on the plane has no global positioning system, the person said. But investigators have managed to calculate the distance between the “ping” from the plane and a stationary Inmarsat-3 satellite. The satellite can “see” in an arc that stretches to the north and south of its fixed position, but without GPS it can say only how far away the ping is, not where it is coming from, the person said.

But based on what is known about the flight’s trajectory, investigators are strongly favoring the southern corridor as the likely flight path, the person said.

Correction: March 15, 2014

Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article misstated the number of Chinese citizens on Flight 370. About two-thirds of those aboard, and not 227, were Chinese.


Reporting was contributed by Nicola Clark from Paris; Michael Forsythe and Kirk Semple from Kuala Lumpur; Edward Wong from Beijing; Michael S. Schmidt from Washington; and Emma G. Fitzsimmons from New York. Mia Li contributed research from Beijing.

Kit B (276)
Sunday March 16, 2014, 10:06 am

This just reeks of something from the Twilight Zone and if it were not for almost 250 people that are missing with no trace it might be fodder for humor. No terror group has claimed involvement which is highly unusual, reprisals or not, these groups want the credit. I hope we learning something this coming week. For now as when it was first reported, all is conjecture but for the fact that this airliner is missing.

Angelika R (143)
Sunday March 16, 2014, 3:39 pm
I guess it was time to close your other "Breaking." thread, to be continued here. It smells like a rat if you ask me.
I even had wild thought about it like some 9-11 type repeat to get more reason for waging and widening the "war on terror".Yes, I do hope we and the families ! will learn more real soon. If not, one has to wonder just WHAT these 25 countries involved in the operation now are doing.

Barbara K (61)
Sunday March 16, 2014, 3:51 pm
For security reasons, many countries were hesitant in cooperating and sharing what it knew about the airliner crossing their space. Finally, when they started cooperating, investigators were to learn more. I think they are still holding out on info for the same reasons. It has to be one of the biggest mysteries in a long time and yet may end up with a simple answer. It is odd that none of the people aboard were able to "phone home". Someone had to be stopping them, or they had no signal needed to place calls. It even sounds like the passengers or someone else tried to take the plane back from whomever, at one point. I hope they find it soon and that the people are all safe. I think the pilots are most suspicious for now. Why would anyone have a flight simulator at home unless they were using it to teach people to fly? I'm a mystery buff so my head is working overtime trying to solve this one. lol.


Angelika R (143)
Sunday March 16, 2014, 4:23 pm
When you approach the "M" in your travel series posts, maybe skip a certain country? Perhaps choose Macedonia.

Angelika R (143)
Sunday March 16, 2014, 4:29 pm
@ Barbara, it was not someONE, but someTHING that stopped passengers' cellphone use: the fact that this plane did NOT allow cell use. That was reported. I'm not sure if it was mentioned whether not equipped for it or just prohibited, but I did hear it was said. I'm like you on that, for sure. And I for one will not rule out yet that the plane might indeed have landed somewhere on the northern arc, cocoperation form that country provided.
As for India, we already learned that they have their radars and defense systems on standby, not in operation all the time, so no problem crossing over there.

JL A (281)
Sunday March 16, 2014, 5:01 pm
There are indeed eery dimensions to this story emerging in at least speculation.

Angelika R (143)
Sunday March 16, 2014, 6:51 pm
BTW-Happy St Paddy's to you Kit and all ! Guess it shows ;)

Kit B (276)
Monday March 17, 2014, 11:17 am

This just in from Dumb and Dumber:

CNN Host Speculates Whether Malaysia Jet's Disappearance Was 'Supernatural' (VIDEO)

Kit B (276)
Monday March 17, 2014, 11:50 am

CNN asks whether maybe God stole Flight 370

Angelika R (143)
Monday March 17, 2014, 5:18 pm
Yeah Kit-lol I saw that live and was scratching my head.. best from comments:

I talked with God this morn9ng. She denied any involvement with airplane disappearances - ALL of them.

God will release a formal statement later today. Film at 9.

But I did follow up and researched what the first guy, apparently a German mentioned about that shoe bomb thing; here's the Telegraph's report on it that he was referencing:

Angelika R (143)
Tuesday March 18, 2014, 5:08 am
Link to video: Malaysia Airlines faces anger of flight MH370 passengers' relatives
The relatives of missing MH370 passengers in Beijing say they are prepared to go on hunger strike in protest at what they say is Malaysia Airlines’ failure to tell them the truth about what happened to the plane. Furious Chinese families make the threat after a heated meeting at a hotel with representatives of Malaysian Airlines

"Now we have no news, and everyone is understandably worried," said Wen Wanchen, whose son is among the 239 people on board. "The relatives say they will go to the [Malaysian] embassy to find the ambassador. The Malaysian ambassador should be presenting himself here. But he's not. Relatives are very unsatisfied. So you hear them saying 'hunger strike'," he told Agence France-Presse.

Kit B (276)
Tuesday March 18, 2014, 6:42 am

I can see that the government of Malaysia has no desire to make statements that might once again be wrong.

I do think even if in private, the government should be speaking with the families. If the plane was landed in some very remote area, I suppose there could be a tiny chance the passengers are still alive. We all cling to hope. I can not see what a hunger strike would accomplish, but grief does prompt us to do strange things.

Thanks for the information, Angie.

Angelika R (143)
Tuesday March 18, 2014, 7:54 am
I agree Kit, however, isn't that what the Malaysian govt. has been doing so far? It does look like it and they would be less under fire now had they admitted from start that they would NOT reveal all they know or learned for comprehensible reasons, rather than spreading news only to be conflicting and corrected, even turned into the opposite next day.I can easily understand if Chinese realatives out of desparation would resort to extreme measures now and the ambassador would indeed be the right person to consult, even for confidential in private talks

Angelika R (143)
Thursday March 20, 2014, 5:08 am

Kit B (276)
Thursday March 20, 2014, 7:00 am

There is sort of good news; they are fairly certain they found pieces of the plane. So far, if they have more information it is not being released right now.

Angelika R (143)
Thursday March 20, 2014, 8:15 am
Yes, I've been following the news, although Australian PM and officials did say there is no guarantee these pieces ( about 24 meters large) belong to MH370 plus it is still hard to get to them. Eventhough this of course would mean nobody survived, it would still be another solid bit of evidence and COULD lead to finding that blackbox, so it offers some reasonable hope.

Angelika R (143)
Sunday March 23, 2014, 9:19 am
After two weeks into this mystery it may be fair to summarise: Search assets and efforts widely increased, in fact to the largest ever search mission, - results= zero. Don't know what to think of all this...and /or whom to believe any more..

Past Member (0)
Tuesday March 25, 2014, 7:59 pm
Trust your intuitions always :) spirit knows :)
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