Malaysian officials have contacted 25 countries, including Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, China, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Australia and France, asking them to provide assistance in the search for the missing plane.
The Malaysian officials said on Sunday that they have requested the countries to look into their radar facilities, including satellite data and analysis, ground-search capabilities, and maritime and air assets.
Giving her comments over the Malaysian request, Foreign Office spokeswoman Tasneem Aslam said that there was no record or material on Pakistani radars about the Malaysian airliner. She said Malaysia has requested several countries to share their radar information and pointed out that otherwise too all the countries share information on radar.
The spokeswoman said that if any information was received by Pakistan about the aircraft it would certainly share it with Malaysian government.
Meanwhile, Malaysian police were examining a flight simulator belonging to one of the pilots of the plane. The Malaysian government said police searched the homes of both of the pilots on Saturday, the first time they have done so since the plane went missing. Asked why it took them so long, Police Chief Inspector General Khalid Abu Bakar said authorities “didn’t see the necessity in the early stages”.
Bakar told reporters that he had requested countries with citizens on board the plane to investigate their background. He said that the intelligence agencies of some countries had already done this and found nothing suspicious, but that he was waiting for others to respond.
Satellite data has shown that after losing contact with air traffic controllers, the plane could have kept flying as far north as Kazakhstan in Central Asia or deep into the southern Indian Ocean, posing awesome challenges for efforts to recover the aircraft and flight data recorders vital to solving the mystery of what happened on board. That has left authorities desperate to narrow down a search area now stretching across 11 nations and one of the most remote oceans in the world.
“The search was already a highly complex, multinational effort. It has now become even more difficult,” Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said at a news conference on Sunday.
“It is our hope with the new information, parties that can come forward and narrow the search to an area that is more feasible,” he said, adding that the search effort now includes 25 countries.
“The search area has been significantly expanded and the nature of the search has changed. From focusing mainly on shallow seas, we are now looking at large tracts of land, crossing 11 countries, as well as deep and remote oceans,” Hishammuddin said.
He said the number of countries involved in the search and rescue operation had increased from 14 to 25, bringing “new challenges of co-ordination and diplomacy to the search effort.”
Australia said it was sending one of its two AP-3C Orion aircraft involved in the search to the remote islands in the Indian Ocean at Malaysia’s request. The plane will search the north and west of the Cocos Islands, a remote Australian territory with an airstrip about 1200 kilometers (745 miles) southwest of Indonesia, military chief Gen. David Hurley said.
Given that the northern route the plane may have taken would take it over countries with busy airspace, most experts say the person in control of the aircraft would more likely have chosen the southern route. The southern Indian Ocean is the world’s third-deepest and one of the most remote stretches of water in the world, with little radar coverage. The wreckage might take months — or longer — to find, or might never be located.
Malaysian authorities have not ruled out any possibilities, and to establish what happened with any degree of certainty investigators will likely need to examine information, including cockpit voice recordings, from the plane’s flight data recorders should the jet be located.
Malaysian officials and aviation experts said that whoever disabled the plane’s communication systems and then flew the jet must have had a high degree of technical knowledge and flying experience, putting one or both of the pilots high on the list of possible suspects.
INDIAN SEARCH PUT ON HOLD:
Massive Indian Navy and air search operations for the missing Malaysian aircraft were suspended on Sunday until fresh search areas are identified by the Malaysian government, an official said.
Col Harmit Singh, spokesman for India’s tri-services command, said coast guard ships have reverted to routine surveillance in the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal.
“Air and sea operations for today have been put on hold,” Singh said.
The Indian Navy and air force’s coordinated search for the last three days has so far covered more than 250,000 square kilometres in the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal without any sighting of the Boeing 777 and 239 people aboard.
Another government official said that Indian and Malaysian officials were scheduled to meet in Kuala Lumpur later Sunday to refine search coordinates.
The future course of search efforts is expected to be worked out at this meeting, the official said on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to talk to reporters.
Vinod Patney, a retired air force officer, said it was unlikely – but not impossible – for an aircraft to intrude a country’s airspace undetected.
Officials said there was effective radar coverage in the region as a large number of flights between Europe and Southeast Asian use this route. Also, India has tightened security in the area as it is a strategic shipping lane for oil tankers.
Meanwhile, the US intelligence community is leaning toward a theory that “those in the cockpit” — the pilots of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 — were deliberately responsible for the mysteriously vanished commercial jetliner, an American news channel reported.
According to CNN, a US official with direct knowledge of the latest thinking says the Malaysian government had wanted a reason to search the homes of the pilot and co-pilot for several days, but it was only in the last 24 to 36 hours the technical analysis of the collected radar and satellite data gave Malaysian officials sufficient reason to inspect those residences.
According to Malaysian prime minister, military radar showed the jetliner flew in a westerly direction back over the Malaysian peninsula before turning northwest toward the Bay of Bengal or southwest into the Indian Ocean.
“Evidence is consistent with someone acting deliberately from inside the plane,” he said, officially confirming the plane’s disappearance was not caused by an accident.
Military radar showed that the plane flew in a westerly direction back over the Malaysian peninsula before turning northwest toward the Bay of Bengal or southwest into the Indian Ocean, Najib said, according to the channel.