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Twenty-six nations search in vain for missing Malaysian aircraft

18 March 2014

At least 26 countries are training their areal and naval assets in a massive international search for the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner that disappeared on 8 March with 239 people aboard. Countries known to be involved include Australia, Burma, China, France, India, Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Malaysia, Pakistan, Thailand, United States, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam, with US, China and France providing special assistance regarding satellite data.

Ten days after the Malaysian airlines flight MH370 disappeared, investigators are now looking into the possibility that the jetliner might have been deliberately flown under the radar to Taliban-controlled bases on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The latest revelation comes after reports that the final message sent to air traffic controllers from the Boeing 777's cockpit - "All right, good night" - was spoken after disabling the jet's ACARS reporting system.

The plane's transponder, which identifies it to commercial radar systems, was also switched off after around 14 minutes later.

Malaysian Air force Major General Affendi Buang said the two separate actions, along with the calm message in between, "will tell you something" about whether the diversion was deliberate or not.

Malaysian authorities are now seeking diplomatic permission to investigate the theory that the plane was flown to one of a number of Taliban strongholds on the Afghan border in North West Pakistan.

They include not just military assets on land, at sea and in the air, but also investigators and the specific support and assistance requested by Malaysia, such as radar and satellite information.

Malaysia, which is coordinating the search, has deployed about 18 aircraft and 27 ships, including submarine support vessel MV Mega Bakti, which can detect objects at a depth of up to 1,000 meters (3,280 feet).

Australia has sent two AP-3C Orion aircraft, one of which is searching north and west of the Cocos Islands in the southern Indian Ocean, and plans to deploy two more by midday today.

China has deployed nine navy ships and civilian patrol vessels and a variety of fixed wing and rotary aircraft, along with a team of experts dispatched to Malaysia. Chinese civil aviation authority sources said the missing plane did not enter Chinese airspace.

A P-8A Poseidon, the most advanced long-range anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare aircraft in the world, has been searching in the Indian Ocean. The US Navy also has deployed the destroyer USS Kidd with two MH-60R helicopters.

Kazakhstan is the farthest northwest the plane could have flown, given satellite data on its past locations and its fuel limits. The transportation ministry of the central Asian republic said no unauthorised flights have been detected. Kazakhstan authorities said they have has not received any formal requests from Malaysia to conduct search-and-rescue or any other operations, but would respond if such a request were made.

Indonesian air force spokesman Hadi Tjahjanto said with radars on Sumatra Island finding no trace of the jetliner search efforts have shifted from the Malacca Strait to the corridor stretching from northern Sumatra to the Indian Ocean.

India, meanwhile, halted its search operations in the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal and continues to coordinate with Malaysia about possible new search areas.

The Royal Thai Navy suspended its search mission in the Gulf of Thailand and South China Sea on Saturday, while spokesman of Royal Thai Air Force Montol Suchookorn said the Thai military has already given its radar data to Malaysia and has not received any additional requests.

There is, however, nothing to prove that the plane's co-pilot or its captain, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, might have been behind the plane's disappearance. Zaharie had flown for the airline for 30 years and had not shown any sign of personal troubles recently, according to friends, although the final radio call had led many people to suspect that something malign was afoot.

Malaysian defence minister Hishammuddin Hussein said the search at the homes of Zaharie and Fariq over the past weekend found a flight simulator in Zaharie's home, which the police is examining now for clues. But he said there was nothing to point to the pilot or the co-pilot wanting to hijack the plane.

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