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Reuters Photo A Japan Coast Guard member studies a map with a Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency pilot, cemter, in JCG’s Gulfstream V Jet aircraft customized for search and rescue operations as they search for the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 plane over the waters of the South China Sea on Saturday.

Lost passenger jet was diverted deliberately, Malaysian PM says: Boeing still missing after a week of searching

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KUALA LUMPUR — Investigators believe someone aboard a missing Malaysian airliner deliberately shut off its communications and tracking systems, turned the plane around and flew for nearly seven hours after it vanished, Prime Minister Najib Razak said on Saturday.

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Shortly after the prime minister finished speaking police arrived at the home of the missing aircraft’s pilot to search for evidence, a senior police official told Reuters.

As the unprecedented search for Flight MH370 and its 239 passengers and crew entered its second week, Najib told a news conference that the hunt for wreckage around the scheduled flight path to the east of Malaysia was being called off.

“Despite media reports the plane was hijacked, I wish to be very clear, we are still investigating all possibilities as to what caused MH370 to deviate,” Najib said.

The fate of the Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777-200ER has been shrouded in mystery since it disappeared off Malaysia’s east coast less than an hour into a March 8 scheduled flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

But investigators have increasing focused on the possibility that it was flown off-course by the pilot or co-pilot, or someone else on board with detailed knowledge of how to fly and navigate a large commercial aircraft.

Police officers arrived at the home of the captain, 53-year-old Zaharie Ahmad Shah, on Saturday afternoon. A senior police official told Reuters they had gone to take evidence that could help with the investigation.

About two-thirds of the passengers on board the flight were Chinese, and Beijing has been showing increasing impatience with the speed and co-ordination of the Malaysian search effort.

On Saturday, China said it had demanded that Malaysia keep providing more thorough and accurate information, and added that it was sending a technical team to Malaysia to help with the investigation.

Najib said new data showed the last communication between the missing plane and satellites at 8:11 a.m. Malaysian time.

That is almost seven hours after it dropped off civilian air traffic control screens at 1:22 a.m. last Saturday, less than an hour after take-off. It was flying across the mouth of the Gulf of Thailand on the eastern side of Malaysia towards Vietnam.

Najib said satellite data confirmed that an unidentified aircraft that later appeared on military radar off Malaysia’s west coast before going out of range at 2:15 a.m. was flight MH370.

“Up until the point at which it left military primary radar coverage, these movements are consistent with deliberate action by someone on the plane,” he said.

He said analysis of the plane’s last communication with satellites placed it somewhere in one of two corridors: a northern corridor stretching from northern Thailand to the border of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, or a southern corridor stretching from Indonesia to the southern Indian Ocean.

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