The Malaysian military has radar data showing the missing Boeing 777 jetliner had changed course and made it to the Malacca Strait, hundreds of kilometers from the last position recorded by civilian authorities, according to a senior military official.
The development injects more mystery into the probe of the disappearance of the flight, and raises questions about why the aircraft was not transmitting signals detectable by civilian radar.
Local newspaper Berita Harian quoted Malaysian air force chief Gen Rodzali Daud as saying radar at a military base had detected the airliner at 2:40 am near Pulau Perak at the northern approach to the strait, a busy waterway that separates the western coast of Malaysia and Indonesia’s Sumatra island. “After that, the signal from the plane was lost,” he was quoted as saying.
A high-ranking military official involved in the investigation confirmed the report and also said the plane was believed to be flying low.
Authorities had earlier said the plane, which took off at 12:20 am and was headed to Beijing, may have attempted to turn back to Kuala Lumpur, but they expressed surprise that it would do so without informing ground control.
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The search for the plane was initially focused on waters between the eastern coast of Malaysia and Vietnam, the position where aviation authorities last tracked it. No trace of the plane has been found by than 40 planes and ships from at least 10 nations searching the area.
Meanwhile, the Malaysian police Tuesday said one of the two passengers known to have used stolen passports to board the missing Malaysian airliner was a 19-year-old Iranian who wanted to migrate to Germany and appeared to have no connection to terrorist organizations.
The passenger, Pouria Nourmohammadi Mehrdad, using a passport that had been stolen from an Austrian man, was traveling to Germany, where he was to meet his mother, said Khalid Abu Bakar, the inspector general of the Malaysian police. “We are in contact with his mother,” Khalid said at a news meet.
Khalid said the authorities had not yet identified the second passenger on Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 who had been traveling on a stolen passport, but he said the person had arrived in Malaysia on the same day, Feb. 28.
Khalid said the police were still investigating the possibilities of hijacking, sabotage and possible psychological or personal problems among the crew and passengers. Other agencies in Malaysia continue to investigate non-criminal explanations for the aircraft’s disappearance.
Speaking at Interpol’s headquarters, chief Ronald K Noble said the evidence emerging about the two Iranians suggested that they were not likely to be linked to any terror groups. “..We are inclined to conclude it is not a terrorist incident,” Noble said.