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Missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370: Malaysian prime minister admits lost plane WAS tracked by military radar

Najib Razak says nothing was done to identify or intercept aircraft because link was not known at the time

The Malaysian prime minister has finally confirmed reports that the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 was tracked by military radar, as he prepared to host US President Barack Obama in Kuala Lumpur seven weeks after the plane disappeared.

Najib Razak said a preliminary report into the incident would be made available to the public over the course of the coming week. It is expected to raise the issue of how Malaysia’s air force and surveillance networks failed to track the plane once it lost contact with civilian air traffic controllers.

Previous reports have suggested that on the night of MH370’s disappearance on 8 March, military radar picked up a mysterious aircraft moving across the Malaysian peninsula, but government officials have remained vague on any link to the missing Boeing 777.

Speaking to CNN, Mr Najib confirmed that the radar did indeed track the plane once it had turned back from its original flight path – but said that this was only established “after the event”.

He said he believed there was someone monitoring the radar at the time, but that nothing more was done to investigate the unidentified aircraft because “it was deemed not to be hostile”.

“It behaved like a commercial airline, following a normal flight path,” Mr Najib said.

Meanwhile, Mr Obama said on Sunday that the US was fully committed to providing more assets to assist in the search for wreckage from the plane in the southern Indian Ocean.

The US Navy’s submersible vehicle Bluefin 21 continued to scan the sea floor in the search area on Sunday, but bad weather prevented efforts from the air and on the surface.

“We are currently consulting very closely with our international partners on the best way to continue the search into the future,” said the Joint Agency Coordination Centre in charge of the search.

Malaysia, China, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Britain and the US are assisting Australia in trying to solve the most expensive search in aviation history.

A US defence official told Reuters on Friday that the sea search is likely to drag on for years as it enters the much more difficult phase of scouring broader areas of the ocean near where the plane is believed to have crashed.

Mr Obama said: “Obviously we don't know all the details but we do know the plane went down in the ocean in this part of this world. It is a big place and it is a very challenging and laborious effort. It is going to take quite some time.”