KUALA LUMPUR, April 2 Malaysia is focusing its
criminal investigation on the cabin crew and pilots of a missing
Malaysia Airlines plane, after clearing all 227
passengers of any involvement, the country's police chief was
reported as saying on Wednesday.
National police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said the passengers
had been cleared of possible involvement in hijacking, sabotage
or having personal or psychological problems that could have
been connected to the flight's disappearance on March 8.
"They have been cleared of the four," he was quoted as
saying by state news agency Bernama.
Khalid could not be reached by Reuters for comment and the
country's home minister declined to confirm the report.
Malaysian authorities have still not ruled out mechanical
problems as causing the disappearance, but say evidence suggests
the plane was deliberately diverted from its scheduled route
from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
Investigators believe that someone with detailed knowledge
of both the Boeing 777-200ER and commercial aviation
navigation switched off the plane's communications systems
before diverting it thousands of miles off its scheduled course.
That has turned the focus of investigations onto the two
pilots, 53-year-old captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah and his co-pilot,
27-year old Fariq Abdul Hamid.
But the police say their investigation into the men has
failed to turn up any red flags. The FBI helped Malaysian
authorities analyse data from Zaharie's personal flight
simulator but found nothing suspicious.
Search teams in the southern Indian Ocean are in a race
against time to locate the plane's black box recorder, which has
an expected battery life of around 30 days and may well contain
the key to understanding the plane's mysterious disappearance.
"We are focusing on the pilots but we can't get much clarity
until we have the black box," one senior police source told
(Reporting By Stuart Grudgings and Niluksi Koswanage; Editing
by Alex Richardson)