Intelligence checks on 153 Chinese passengers on a missing Malaysian airliner produced no red flags, China said yesterday, as Malaysia marshalled ships and planes from 26 countries to search an area the size of Australia.
Eleven days after contact was lost with Malaysia Airlines flight 370 and its 239 passengers and crew, there has been minimal progress in determining precisely what happened or where the plane ended up.
Lending fresh weight to the belief that the plane was deliberately diverted, the New York Times reported that the first turn it made off its flight path was programmed into the Boeing 777’s computer navigation system, probably by someone in the cockpit.
Rather than manually operating the plane’s controls, whoever altered flight 370’s path typed seven or eight keystrokes into a computer situated between the captain and the co-pilot, the newspaper said, quoting US officials.
Two-thirds of those on board were Chinese, and Malaysia had asked authorities in Beijing to run an exhaustive background check on all their nationals as part of a probe into everyone aboard.
Chinese Ambassador to Malaysia Huang Huikang (黃惠康) yesterday said no evidence had been found that would link anyone to a possible hijacking or terrorist attack on the jet.
Chinese media has been critical of Malaysia’s handling of the investigation, saying valuable time and resources were wasted in the hours and days immediately after the aircraft disappeared on March 8.
Meanwhile, Thailand’s military said its radar detected a plane that may have been Malaysia Airlines flight 370 just minutes after the missing jetliner’s communications went down, adding that it did not share the information earlier because it was not specifically asked for it.
Thai air force spokesman Montol Suchookorn yesterday said the plane followed a twisting flight path to the Strait of Malacca, which is where Malaysian radar tracked flight 370 early on March 8.
However, Montol said the Thai military was not sure whether it detected the same plane.