Malaysian officials are now admitting the missing jetliner was deliberately flown off course. The New York Times reports that a criminal inquiry has been launched. The plane was flown for as long as several hours toward an unknown point, far off its scheduled route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur.
Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia said on Saturday afternoon that he would seek the help of governments across a large swath of Asia in the search for the plane, 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 Asia.
As part of the investigation, police officers on Saturday were seen going to the gated residential compound in Kuala Lumpur where the flight’s pilot, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, was reported to live, and the Malaysian news media reported that a search there was actually underway after a week of rumors to that effect. A police spokeswoman declined to comment, saying no details would be available until a news conference planned for Sunday evening.
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 noted that one communications system had been disabled as the plane flew out 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. Source: NY Times