[Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak (second from right) and acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein (second from left) announcing yesterday that search for MH370 would now expand to areas beyond Thailand to Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan in the north and beyond Indonesia in the south. The Malaysian Insider]
BY ELIZABETH ZACHARIAH
(The Malaysian Insider): Investigations into the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 now include engineers who may have had contact with the aircraft before take-off, while Putrajaya is contacting 15 countries to request their radar information, says the Transport Ministry.
The 15 countries are located along the northern and southern corridors, where the search for the missing flight has now been refocused after evidence showed MH370′s last contact was at 8.11am north of the Strait of Malacca.
The countries are Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, China, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Australia and France.
“Officials are requesting assistance from these countries,” the ministry said in a statement today.
Malaysia is asking these countries to provide further assistance in the search for the aircraft, including satellite data and analysis, ground-search capabilities, radar data, and maritime and air assets.
“Both the northern and southern corridors are being treated with equal importance.
“Malaysian officials are currently discussing with all partners how best to deploy assets along the two corridors,” it added.
Yesterday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said the search for MH370 would now expand to areas beyond Thailand to Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan in the north and beyond Indonesia in the south.
This was after satellite data placed the Boeing 777-200ER (9M-MRO) aircraft in one of two corridors: at the north stretching from northern Thailand to Kazakhstan, or at the south, from Indonesia to the southern Indian Ocean.
Najib added that investigations showed the passenger jet’s movements and shutdown of communication links were a deliberate act but stopped short of calling it a hijack.
Investigators had confirmed that an aircraft tracked by military radar was the lost MH370, after its communications were switched off before it reached the east coast of Malaysia.
The statement also said that police were not only investigating all passengers and crew of the missing plane but also engineers of the aircraft who had contact with the plane before take-off.
Police yesterday searched the homes of the pilot Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53, and first officer, Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27.
“As per normal procedure, police are investigating all crew and passengers on board MH370, as well as engineers who may have had contact with the aircraft before take-off,” the statement read.
Police officers, it said, also spoke to the family members of the pilot and co-pilot.
“Experts are examining the pilot’s flight simulator. We appeal to the public not to jump to conclusions regarding the police investigation,” it added.
It was reported earlier that police are now combing through the personal, political and religious backgrounds of pilots and crew of the plane.
There has been no trace of MH370 since it vanished on March 8 with 239 people onboard, but investigators believe it was diverted by someone who knew how to switch off its communications and tracking systems.
“We are not ruling out any sort of motivation at the moment,” a senior police official with knowledge of the investigation had said.
AFP, quoting an unnamed senior Malaysian military official said, as part of the probe, investigators piloted an identical Boeing 777-200 on the missing plane’s suspected flight path, in a re-enactment confirming their belief that it banked west.
The revelation provided an insight into the lengths that international investigators who were aiding the Malaysian government were going to in probing into the mystery surrounding the fate of the plane.
The re-enactment, staged in recent days, was aimed at determining whether the radar and satellite data that it generated matched with data on MH370′s flight.
The official said the new findings generated data identical to that which is believed to show the missing airliner turned from its intended flight path across the South China Sea, doubled back across Malaysia, and then veered northwest towards the Andaman Sea.