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Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: Did stricken jet's co-pilot make last-gasp phone call before it disappeared?

Malaysian media quotes sources saying call was made shortly before plane went missing

The Malaysian government has denied claims that the co-pilot of the missing flight MH370 tried to make a call just before it disappeared.

The New Straits Times quoted unnamed sources saying investigators traced a call from the Malaysia Airlines plane to Fariq Abdul Hamid's phone.

Hishammuddin Hussein, Malaysia's acting Transport Minister, denied the claims and said many leads from local and foreign media had been baseless.

"If this did happen, we would have known about it earlier," he told the paper.

“Unless we can have verifications, we can't comment on these reports.”

According to the article, the call ended abruptly but was connected to a tower north-west of Penang on 8 March.

“The telco's (telecommunications company's) tower established the call that he was trying to make. On why the call was cut off, it was likely because the aircraft was fast moving away from the tower and had not come under the coverage of the next one,” sources told the New Straits Times.

But the paper also quoted a different source saying that although the line was “reattached”, it did not mean a call was made.

According to the report, the plane was flying low enough - under 7,000 feet - for the signal to be picked up by a civilian telecommunications tower on the ground.

There was no indication from the sources over why a call could have been made or who to.

Fariq and the flight’s captain, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, have come under intense scrutiny after the plane mysteriously vanished on its way Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board.

Mr Hussein confirmed on Friday that a criminal investigation is ongoing.

“Everyone on board remains under suspicion,” he said.

Authorities believe the Boeing 777’s communications were deliberately disabled and radar showed it was flown far off course into the open ocean.

Hijacking, sabotage, terrorism or issues related to the mental health of the pilots or someone else on board were being considered as possibilities.

Ships and aeroplanes are continuing to scour the Indian Ocean for debris while specialist equipment is being used to search underwater for the plane’s missing black boxes.