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Faint electronic signals sent to satellites from a missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 show it may have been flown thousands of miles off course before running out of fuel over the Indian Ocean, a source familiar with official U.S. assessments said.
Analysis in Malaysia and the United States of military radar tracking and pulses detected by satellites are starting to piece together an extraordinary picture of what may have happened to the Malaysian jetliner after it lost contact with civilian air traffic.
The fate of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370, and the 239 passengers and crew aboard, has been shrouded in mystery since it vanished off Malaysia's east coast less than an hour into a March 8 scheduled flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
Investigators are focusing increasingly on foul play, as evidence suggests the plane turned sharply west after its disappearance and - with its communications systems deliberately switched off - continued to fly for perhaps several hours.
"What we can say is we are looking at sabotage, with hijack still on the cards," said the source, a senior Malaysian police official.
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.
A source familiar with data the U.S. government is receiving from the investigation said the pulses sent to satellites were ambiguous and had been interpreted to provide two different analyses.
The electronic signals were believed to have been transmitted for several hours after the plane flew out of radar range, said the source familiar with the data.
The most likely possibility is that, after travelling northwest, the Boeing 777-200ER made a sharp turn to the south, over the Indian Ocean where officials think, based on the available data, it flew until it ran out of fuel and crashed into the sea, added the source.
The other interpretation is that Flight MH370 continued to fly to the northwest and headed over Indian territory.
The source added that it was believed unlikely the plane flew for any length of time over India because that country has strong air defence and radar coverage and that should have allowed authorities there to see the plane and intercept it.
Either way, the analysis of satellite data appears to support the radar evidence outlined by sources familiar with the investigation in Malaysia.
Two sources told Reuters that military radar data showed an unidentified aircraft that investigators suspect was