Malaysian investigators today examined a flight simulator found at the home of the pilot of the missing jetliner while probing hijacking, sabotage and terrorism angles as search operations expanded to large tracts of land and sea covering 11 countries, including India.
The mystery of the missing Flight MH370 from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing since March 8 continued to baffle aviation and security authorities who have not succeeded in tracking the aircraft despite deploying hi-tech radar and other gadgets.
Malaysian police said they are refocusing the probe on the crew, passengers and ground staff based on "new leads" that the aircraft was deliberately disabled and its transponder switched off before the plane veered from its path.
Police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said they have dismantled the simulator found at pilot Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah's residence and reassembled it in their office to examine it. "Investigations include possibility of hijack, sabotage and terrorism," he added.
Defence and acting Transport Minister Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said, "The search area has been significantly expanded. The nature of the search has changed. From focusing mainly on shallow sea we are now looking at large tracts of land, crossing 11 countries, as well as deep and remote oceans."
Malaysia got in touch with countries along the northern and southern corridors about the flight. These countries include: Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, China, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Australia and France.
He said that the search operation, which entered the ninth day today, was already "highly complex".
The minister said that the number of countries involved in the search and rescue operation has increased from 14 to 25, which brings new challenges of coordination and diplomacy to the search effort.
"The investigation is refocusing on the backgrounds of the passengers, pilots and even ground staff. The families of the pilot and co-pilot have been interviewed," Hishammuddin said.
He said the search has entered a new phase. "The information released yesterday has produced new leads and given new directions to the search process" to trace the Boeing 777-200 aircraft.
Bakar said they are seeking background checks on all passengers from foreign counterparts but "there are still a few countries yet to respond to our requests". He said few foreign intelligence agencies, however, have cleared all the passengers.
Officials said police are verifying the personal, political and religious backgrounds of pilots and crew.
Malaysian Premier Najib Razak today spoke to his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh who