Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: Did jetliner fly into area controlled by Taliban? Net widens after claims final satellite signal could have been sent from the ground

Pilots’ homes searched as number of countries involved in search rises to 25

The missing Malaysian airlines flight MH370 may have been deliberately flown under the radar to Taliban-controlled bases on the border of Afghanistan, it has emerged, as authorities said that the final message sent from the cockpit came after one of the jet's communications systems had already been switched off.

Eight days after the Boeing 777 vanished, The Independent has learnt that Malaysian authorities are seeking diplomatic permission to investigate a theory that the plane was flown to one of a number of Taliban strongholds on the Afghan border in North West Pakistan.

The latest revelation came as it was revealed that the final message sent to air traffic controllers from the jet's cockpit - “ All right, good night” - was spoken after someone on board had already disabled the plane's ACARS reporting system.

Around 14 minutes later someone also switched off the plane's transponder, which identifies it to commercial radar systems. Malaysian Air force Major General Affendi Buang told reporters that the two separate actions, along with the calm message in between, “will tell you something” about whether the diversion was deliberate or not.

At least 25 countries are now assisting in the search for the plane, intensifying challenges of co-ordinating ground, sea and aerial efforts. Countries known to be involved include Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Burma, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and Australia, with special assistance regarding satellite data requested from the US, China and France.

On Sunday Malaysian officials examined a sophisticated flight simulator belonging to the chief pilot of the missing jet, after experts said only a trained person could have turned off the plane’s communication equipment and flown it off course without being detected.

Working on the theory that the plane was intentionally flown off course, police have delved into the backgrounds of captain Zaharie Ahmed Shah, 53, and 27-year-old co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid. Their homes were searched on Saturday, and on Sunday, experts examined the simulator Mr Shah kept in his home which he had built himself.

 

There have been no reported sightings or concrete leads on the whereabouts of the jet, which vanished from radar screens shortly after it took off in Kuala Lumpur at 00.40am on the morning of 8 March, destination Beijing.

The final confirmed location for MH370 on civilian radar was at 1.21am, but it was spotted less than an hour later on military radar, far to the west of that position. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak revealed that “ping” signals from the plane was last received at 8.11am.

Zaharie Shah, left, and Fariq Hamid Zaharie Shah, left, and Fariq Hamid

Based on data collated by the British company Inmarsat’s satellite network, at that point the plane was on one of two possible arcs – one stretching north from Thailand to Kazakhstan and crossing more than 10 countries, and one to the south over Indonesia and out across the southern Indian ocean. Experts have said the aircraft could have been on the ground when it sent its satellite signals.

Boeing 777s need a runway of at least 5,000ft long, limiting the number of possible sites within the 2,200 nautical mile-radius it is believed the plane could have flown from its last known position.

Last night sources in Kuala Lumpur assisting with the investigation told The Independent that full diplomatic permissions were being sought in order to rule out the theory that the plane could have flown to areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan that are not under government control.

Large areas of the southern half of Afghanistan are ruled by the Afghan Taliban, while some areas of north-west Pakistan, adjacent to or near to the Afghan border, are controlled by the Pakistani Taliban.

Read more: Q&A what we know - and don't know - so far
Terror plot ‘would have required one hell of a piece of planning’
Hijackers, pirates or suicide – the theories surrounding the mystery

A spokesman for Malaysian Airlines said: “These are matters for the jurisdiction of those regions and Malaysia’s armed forces and department of civil aviation. In regard to Pakistan and Afghanistan, we cannot explore those theories without permission. We hope to have that soon.”

For a commercial plane to pass undetected through these regions, which are highly militarised with robust air defence networks, many run by the US military, would require a combination of extremely sophisticated navigation, brazen audacity and security failure by those monitoring international airspace. However, with so little known about the fate of the plane, and the investigation growing in scale every day, it is yet another line of enquiry that remains impossible to rule out. On Sunday Pakistani civil aviation officials said they had checked their radar recordings and found no sign of the missing jet.

Malaysian officials said they had requested help from a dozen Asian countries and had asked them to provide radar data. They have also asked for assistance from Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Australia and France, which administers a handful of islands deep in the southern Indian Ocean.

 

Click here for enlarged view of graphic

“The search area has been significantly expanded, and the search area has changed. We are now looking at large tracts of land, crossing 11 countries as well as deep and remote oceans,” said Malaysia’s Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein.

Khalid Abu Bakar, Malaysia’s police chief, said investigators researching the backgrounds of the people who boarded Flight MH370 had found no passengers with aviation expertise. He said a number of foreign intelligence agencies had been working with the Malaysians, though he said information was still pending from some countries with nationals on the flight.

Police are looking at the personal, political and religious backgrounds of all crew members. A number of ground support staff who might have worked on the plane are also being investigated.

Officials urged reporters not to jump to conclusions on the pilot and co-pilot, who they said had not asked to work together that day, and had not requested additional fuel for the aircraft.

Reuters reported police had said their inquiries had found no links between Captain Shah and any militant group.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
filmJames Cameron is excited
News
news

Lincoln MP Karl McCartney 'denied all knowledge' of the Twitter activity

Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
filmDirector said film would 'never have been financed' with ethnic minority actors in key roles
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
art
Life and Style
View of champagne glasses at a beach bar set up along the Croisette during the 66th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes on May 17, 2013
food + drink(and for now, there's a clear winner)
News
The author PD James, who died on 27 November 2014
people

Detective novelist who wrote Death comes to Pemberley passed away peacefully at her home, aged 94

Arts and Entertainment
Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
arts + ents
Life and Style
tech

Sites using the popular Gigya comment platform were attacked by the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA)

Extras
indybest
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

h2 Recruit Ltd: New Business Sales Manager - Talent Management - £60,000 OTE

£35000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: h2 Recruit Ltd: A true market leader in ...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Consultant - OTE £35,000

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Development Consulta...

Recruitment Genius: Visitor Centre - Attraction Manager

£50000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: For the first time in its 1,000...

Recruitment Genius: Air Conditioning Service and / or Installation Engineers

£27400 - £33500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time air conditioning, ven...

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?