* Search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 now in second
* Investigation focusing more on possible deliberate
* Radar data suggests plane was heading toward Indian
* India searching remote, densely forested islands
* 227 passengers and 12 crew aboard lost flight
By Niluksi Koswanage and Siva Govindasamy
KUALA LUMPUR, March 15 An investigation into a
missing Malaysian jetliner, now into its second week, is
focusing more on the possibility of foul play as evidence
suggests it was deliberately flown hundreds of miles off course,
sources familiar with the Malaysian probe said.
Two sources told Reuters that military radar data showed an
unidentified aircraft that investigators suspect was Malaysia
Airlines Flight MH370 following a commonly used
navigational route toward the Middle East and Europe when it was
last spotted early on March 8, northwest of Malaysia.
That course - headed into the Andaman Sea and towards the
Bay of Bengal in the Indian Ocean - could only have been set
deliberately, either by flying the Boeing 777-200ER jet
manually or by programming the auto-pilot.
A third source familiar with the investigation said
inquiries were focusing more on the theory that someone with
knowledge of navigational waypoints - used by airlines to track
established commercial flight paths - had diverted the flight
off its scheduled course from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
"What we can say is we are looking at sabotage, with hijack
still on the cards," said the source, a senior Malaysian police
A U.S. source familiar with the investigation said there was
also discussion within the U.S. government that the plane's
disappearance might have involved an act of piracy.
There has been no trace of the plane, which was carrying 239
people, nor any sign of wreckage as the navies and military
aircraft of more than a dozen countries scour the seas on both
sides of peninsular Malaysia.
India has deployed ships, planes and helicopters from the
remote, forested and mostly uninhabited Andaman and Nicobar
Islands, at the juncture of the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman
"This operation is like finding a needle in a haystack,"
said Harmeet Singh, spokesman for the armed forces in the
Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said he
could not confirm the last heading of the plane or if
investigators were focusing on sabotage.
"A normal investigation becomes narrower with time ... as
new information focuses the search, but this is not a normal
investigation," he told a news conference. "In this case, the
information has forced us to look further and further afield."
Investigators were still looking at four or five
possibilities, including a diversion that was intentional or
under duress, or an explosion, he said. Police would search the
pilot's home if necessary and were still investigating all
passengers and crew on the plane, he added.
INDIAN OCEAN "BIGGEST CHALLENGE"
Britain's Inmarsat said "routine, automated signals"
from MH370 were seen on its satellite network during the plane's
flight from Kuala Lumpur and had been shared with authorities,
but gave no other details.
On Thursday, two sources close to the investigation said
satellites had picked up faint electronic pulses from the
aircraft after it went missing, but added the signals gave no
immediate information about where the jet was heading and little
else about its fate.
One industry source with knowledge of the situation said it
would be possible to figure out the location of MH370 by
calculating the distance from the satellite to the plane and the
angle of elevation. The source said such information about MH370
could become available in the next few days.
Malaysia's civil aviation chief said on Friday the
government was working with U.S. investigators to establish if
there was any satellite information that could help locate the
If the jetliner did fly into the Indian Ocean, a vast
expanse with depths of more than 7,000 metres (23,000 feet), the
task faced by searchers would become dramatically more
difficult. Winds and currents could shift any surface debris
tens of nautical miles within hours.
"Ships alone are not going to get you that coverage,
helicopters are barely going to make a dent in it and only a few
countries fly P-3s (long-range search aircraft)," William Marks,
spokesman for the U.S. Seventh Fleet, told Reuters.
"So this massive expanse of water space will be the biggest
The U.S. Navy was sending an advanced P-8A Poseidon plane to
help search the Strait of Malacca, a busy sealane separating the
Malay peninsula from the Indonesian island of Sumatra. It had
already deployed a Navy P-3 Orion aircraft to those waters.
LAST RADAR SIGHTING
The last sighting of the aircraft on civilian radar screens
came shortly before 1:30 a.m. last Saturday, less than an hour
after take-off. It was flying across the mouth of the Gulf of
Thailand on the eastern side of Malaysia, heading towards
Malaysia's air force chief said on Wednesday that an
aircraft that could have been the missing plane was plotted on
military radar at 2:15 a.m., 200 miles (320 km) northwest of
Penang Island off Malaysia's west coast.
This position marks the limit of Malaysia's military radar
in that part of the country, a fourth source familiar with the
investigation told Reuters.
Malaysia says it has asked neighbouring countries for their
radar data, but has not confirmed receiving the information.
Indonesian and Thai authorities said on Friday they had not
received an official request for such data from Malaysia.
The fact that the plane - if it was MH370 - had lost contact
with air traffic control and was invisible to civilian radar
suggested someone on board had turned off its communication
systems, sources said.
They also gave new details on the direction in which the
unidentified aircraft was heading - following aviation corridors
identified on maps used by pilots as N571 and P628 - routes
taken by commercial planes flying from Southeast Asia to the
Middle East or Europe.
Hishammuddin said it remained unclear if that aircraft was