Missing flight MH370 was deliberately diverted from its planned course to Beijing, according to the Malaysian premier. Despite media reports that the plane was hijacked, authorities are investigating all possible causes.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak told a news conference on Saturday that the communication system and transponder of missing flight MH370 had been disabled as it reached Vietnamese airspace, before the aircraft turned back toward Malaysia.
"These movements are consistent with deliberate action by someone on the plane," Razak said, adding that the investigation was now focusing on the passengers and crew.
The prime minister went on to say that authorities are still investigating all possibilities as to what may have caused the flight to go missing, despite media speculation that the aircraft was hijacked.
A police source said that officers had searched the house of MH370's pilot, 53-year-old Zaharie Ahmad Shah, in Kuala Lumpur, looking for any evidence he could have been involved in foul play.
Two search corridors
Based on new information obtained by investigators, search operations have been called off in the South China Sea. Investigators are now focusing on a northern search corridor stretching from the Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan border to Thailand and a southern corridor from Indonesia to the southern Indian Ocean.
Razak said flight MH370 last communicated with satellites at 8:11 a.m. Malaysian time on Saturday, March 8 - almost seven hours after it apparently turned back and crossed the Malay Peninsula. Authorities have however been unable to determine the exact location of the plane when it made the last satellite contact, the prime minister added.
Seven hours more flying time would probably have taken the plane to the limit of its fuel load. The data sent to the satellites did not show whether the plane was still flying at the time of contact.
The Boeing 777 was en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board when it went missing.
tj,slk/jr (Reuters, dpa)