Malaysian Official: The Missing Plane Was Hijacked

Malaysia plane

AP Photo/Kyodo News

A Malaysian official said investigators concluded the missing Malaysia Airlines flight was hijacked and steered off its original course, the AP reported late Friday evening.

From AP:
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The official, who is involved in the investigation, says no motive has been established, and it is not yet clear where the plane was taken. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media.

The official said that hijacking was no longer a theory. "It is conclusive."

The official said that hijacking was no longer a theory. “It is conclusive.”
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While many have speculated as to what happened to the Beijing-bound Flight 370, this new report is the first to assert a hijacking as the cause. Within the last 24 hours, investigators had increasingly moved their focus toward the possibility of sabotage, either from a hijacker or rogue crew.

Evidence that led investigators to conclude hijacking, the official told AP, were communications systems being deliberately turned off, flight path data, and indications the plane was attempting to avoid radar.

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While the unnamed official speaking to the AP ruled the hijacking scenario as "conclusive," the head of the investigation rebutted the report to The Telegraph shortly after the story broke.

"It is not conclusive. I'm heading the investigation and nobody is saying that," Azharuddin Abdul Rahman told The Telegraph's Dean Nelson. "It's not true. We are looking at the possibility, we're looking at all possibilities. We're doing every profile of the passengers and crew but there is no firm evidence or leads so far."

Still, revelations that emerged earlier today point towards the likelihood of foul play, such as a senior U.S. official telling The New York Times the aircraft made a number of erratic direction and altitude changes before it likely crashed in the Indian Ocean. And the deliberate shutdown of systems to track the airliner indicates the plane's disappearance was more a "deliberate act" than an accident or pilot error.

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On Thursday, sources speaking with ABC said they believed the data reporting system was shut down at 1:07 a.m., while the transponder — sending out location and altitude data — was shut down at 1:21 a.m. The 14-minute delay indicates the systems were purposely shut down rather than the result of a malfunction or failure in some sort of catastrophic accident.

As a number of commercial pilots told NPR's "All Things Considered" on Friday, with the exception of the transponder, which can be shut off at the flick of a switch, other onboard tracking systems are not as easy to disable.

"They said you'd have to go through big checklists, you'd have to possibly pull circuit breakers if you wanted to deactivate [all the communications equipment]," NPR's Geoff Brumfiel said, citing interviews with pilots. "So, to do this, you'd have to have some degree of premeditation and a lot of knowledge of the aircraft."

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Despite attempts to disable in-flight tracking systems, a combination of satellite tracking and military radar continued to track the plane after it's last civilian radar contact about 45 minutes after takeoff.

Malaysia flight path search area CNN/screenshot After falling off of civilian radar, radar signals from the Malaysian military appear to show the Boeing 777 climbing above the plane's maximum ceiling to 45,000 feet before it made a sharp turn toward the west. The data then shows another turn to the southwest and descent to 23,000 feet before it finally settled on a higher altitude and bearing toward the Indian Ocean. “[Radar data] leads them to believe that it either ran out of fuel or crashed right before it ran out of fuel," a senior U.S. official told the Times. "The idea it could cross into Indian airspace and not get picked up made no sense."

Investigators, who widened their search area on Thursday to the Indian Ocean based on faint electronic "pings" of technical data from the flight, have now expanded into the Andaman Sea northwest of the Malay Peninsula, based on another "ping" picked up five or six times by a satellite before it was completely lost, Reuters reports.

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This post has been updated.