Search for Malaysian jet expands westwards

Government denies reports Boeing 777 was deliberately flown off course as search areas widened into Indian Ocean.

    The search for a missing Malaysia Airlines jet has expanded westwards to the Indian Ocean and farther eastwards into the South China Sea after a nearly week-long effort failed to turn up a trace of the aircraft.

    However, Malaysia says it has new leads. Hishammuddin Hussein, transport minister, did not provide details about the leads but said on Friday that Malaysia was closely coordinating with US experts about satellite information that could provide clues on the whereabouts of Flight MH370, which vanished on Saturday with 239 people on board.

    For his part, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, chief of Malaysia's Department of Civil Aviation, said Malaysia is working with the US to get information from US satellites that could help locate the missing Boeing 777.

    "We cannot reveal the information right now because it's still under investigation," he said.

    A team from Britain's Air Accidents Investigation Branch and Boeing engine maker Rolls-Royce would be arriving in Kuala Lumpur to help in the investigation, Azharuddin said.

    The British investigators are also studying the satellite communications they have and will share that information with Malaysian authorities, he said.

    US warship deployed

    Hishammuddin said 105 ships and aircraft from 13 countries are now involved in the search for the plane, which vanished more than an hour into its flight.

    Jay Carney, White House spokesman, said on Thursday that investigators had received "new information" and the US would discuss the redeployment of boats and aircraft with its partners.

    The US Pacific Command confirmed that the USS Kidd destroyer would proceed to the Strait of Malacca to help in the search. A maritime surveillance aircraft, the P-8A Poseidon, will also join the operations, it said.

    The Indian government has sent three boats and three aircraft to help with the search in the Andaman Sea, which is part of the Indian Ocean.

    China, whose citizens made up a majority of the passengers on the plane, continued looking for the missing aircraft in the South China Sea, which has been one of the main focuses of the operations over the past six days.

    But Vietnam has scaled back its search and rescue efforts within its territory.

    On wanted list

    After an earlier lead concerning two passengers on the flight travelling on stolen passports, Thailand placed an Iranian man who allegedly booked the men's tickets on its wanted list, news reports said on Friday.

    Alireza Kolmoham was identified as having booked the tickets for the Iranians using passports that had been lost in Thailand by Italian and Austrian tourists, the Bangkok Post reported.

    The two Iranians are not thought to be linked to the disappearance of the plane. Interpol said they were believed to be immigrating to Europe and were "probably not terrorists".

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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