Last updated Thursday, November 27, 2014 12:18am

Admiral Datuk Mohd Amdan Kurish, Director General of the MMEA, looks at a radar screen while searching for the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 plane in the South China Sea, about 100 nautical miles (185km) from Kelantan, March 9, 2014. — Reuters picAdmiral Datuk Mohd Amdan Kurish, Director General of the MMEA, looks at a radar screen while searching for the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 plane in the South China Sea, about 100 nautical miles (185km) from Kelantan, March 9, 2014. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, March 11 — Malaysia’s military believes it tracked a missing jetliner by radar over the Straits of Malacca, far from where it last made contact with civilian air traffic control off the country’s east coast, a military source told Reuters.

In one of the most baffling mysteries in recent aviation history, a massive search operation for the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER, now in its fourth day, has so far found no trace of the aircraft or the 239 passengers and crew.

“It changed course after Kota Baru and took a lower altitude. It made it into the Malacca Strait,” the military official, who has been briefed on investigations, told Reuters.

The Straits of Malacca, one of the world’s busiest shipping channels, runs along Malaysia’s west coast. The airline said on Saturday that radio and radar contact with Flight MH370 was lost off the east coast Malaysian town of Kota Baru.

Police had earlier said they were investigating whether any passengers or crew on the plane had personal or psychological problems that might explain its disappearance, along with the possibility of a hijack, sabotage or mechanical failure.

The plane left Kuala Lumpur for Beijing early on Saturday morning, vanishing from civilian radar screens about an hour after take-off over the sea separating eastern Malaysia from the southern tip of Vietnam.

There was no distress signal or radio contact indicating a problem and, in the absence of any wreckage or flight data, police have been left trawling through passenger and crew lists for potential leads.

“Maybe somebody on the flight has bought a huge sum of insurance, who wants family to gain from it or somebody who has owed somebody so much money, you know, we are looking at all possibilities,” Malaysian police chief Khalid Abu Bakar told a news conference.

“We are looking very closely at the video footage taken at the KLIA (Kuala Lumpur International Airport), we are studying the behavioural pattern of all the passengers.”

In the Gallery


  • International school students light candles to pray for passengers aboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, in Zhuji, Zhejiang province, March 10, 2014. — Reuters pic

  • A relative of a passenger of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 puts his palms together as he prays for his family member at the Lido Hotel in Beijing, March 10, 2014. — Reuters pic

  • A sign filled with well wishes to the passengers of the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 reads ‘Have Hope’ at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport March 11, 2014. — Reuters pic

  • Deputy commander of Vietnam Air Force Do Minh Tuan looks at a map on a TV screen during a news conference about their mission to find missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 at Phu Quoc Airport on Phu Quoc Island March 11, 2014. — Reuters pic

  • A US Navy SH-60R Seahawk helicopter takes off from the destroyer USS Pinckney in the Gulf of Thailand, to assist in the search for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, in this March 9, 2014 handout picture. — Reuters pic

  • Family members of passengers onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 are seen in a car outside the hotel they are staying at, in Putrajaya March 11, 2014. — Reuters pic

  • A family member of passengers onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 cry inside a hotel they are staying at in Putrajaya March 11, 2014. — Reuters pic

  • A relative of passengers on Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 questions an aid worker (centre left) from Malaysia at restaurant in a hotel in Beijing March 11, 2014. — AFP pic

  • Family members of passengers onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 from Beijing arrive at Cyberview Lodge Hotel, the hotel they are staying at, in Putrajaya March 11, 2014. — Reuters pic

  • Family members of passengers onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 from Beijing arrive at Cyberview Lodge Hotel, the hotel they are staying at, in Putrajaya March 11, 2014. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

  • Family members of passengers onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 from Beijing arrive at Cyberview Lodge Hotel, the hotel they are staying at, in Putrajaya March 11, 2014. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

  • A reflection of military officer Duong Van Lanh is seen from instrument panels as he works onboard a Vietnamese air force AN-26 during a mission to find the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 off Tho Chu islands March 11, 2014. — Reuters pic

  • Malaysians write and hang their wishes for the passengers of missing MH370 on a card before hanging it on the ‘Wall of Hope’ located at the entrance of Pavilion shopping centre in Kuala Lumpur March 11, 2014. — Picture by Mohd Yusof Mat Isa

  • Malaysians write and hang their wishes for the passengers of missing MH370 on a card before hanging it on the ‘Wall of Hope’ located at the entrance of Pavilion shopping centre in Kuala Lumpur March 11, 2014. — Picture by Mohd Yusof Mat Isa

  • Malaysians write and hang their wishes for the passengers of missing MH370 on a card before hanging it on the ‘Wall of Hope’ located at the entrance of Pavilion shopping centre in Kuala Lumpur March 11, 2014. — Picture by Mohd Yusof Mat Isa

  • Malaysians write and hang their wishes for the passengers of missing MH370 on a card before hanging it on the ‘Wall of Hope’ located at the entrance of Pavilion shopping centre in Kuala Lumpur March 11, 2014. — Picture by Mohd Yusof Mat Isa

  • Malaysians write and hang their wishes for the passengers of missing MH370 on a card before hanging it on the ‘Wall of Hope’ located at the entrace of Pavilion shopping centre in Kuala Lumpur March 11, 2014. — Picture by Mohd Yusof Mat Isa

  • Inspector General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar (centre) addresses a news conference on the two passengers who had travelled onboard the missing MH370 plane on stolen passports in KLIA, on March 11, 2014. — Reuters pic

  • A policewoman holds up a photo of one of the two men whom they believe were travelling on board the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 on stolen passports after a news conference in Kuala Lumpur International Airport March 11, 2014. — Reuters pic

  • A combination photo shows two men whom police said were travelling on stolen passports onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 plane, taken before their departure at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in this March 11, 2014 handout courtesy of the Malaysian Police. — Reuters pic

  • Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble (second right) speaks during a news conference at the Interpol headquarters in Lyon, March 11, 2014. — Reuters pic

  • A Vietnamese officer stands next to a TV screen showing a flight route during a news conference about their mission to find missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 at Phu Quoc Airport in Phu Quoc Island, March 11, 2014. — Reuters pic

  • Deputy commander of Vietnam Air Force Do Minh Tuan (centre) gives a press conference at the search and rescue centre at Phu Quoc airport in Vietnam, on March 11, 2014. — Picture by Choo Choy May

  • Deputy commander of Vietnam Air Force Do Minh Tuan points to a map of the search area at the search and rescue centre at Phu Quoc airport in Vietnam, on March 11, 2014. — Picture by Choo Choy May

  • The search and rescue centre is based at Phu Quoc airport in Vietnam. Photo taken on March 11, 2014. — Picture by Choo Choy May

  • A Vietnamese helicopter taxies at Phu Quoc Airport before being utilised in the mission to find the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in Phu Quoc Island, March 11, 2014. — Reuters pic

  • A helicopter lands after coming back from a search for the missing MH370 aircraft at Phu Quoc airport, on March 11, 2014. — Picture by Choo Choy May

  • Reporters doing an interview next to one of the planes that has just returned from a search for the missing MH370 aircraft, at Phu Quoc airport, on March 11, 2014. — Picture by Choo Choy May

  • A helicopter takes off from Jinggangshan warship to search the waters suspected to be the site of the missing Beijing-bound Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in this March 11, 2014 photo courtesy of China News Service. — Reuters pic

  • A search boat carrying rescue workers is set down from Mianyang warship on the waters suspected to be the site of the missing Beijing-bound Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in this March 10, 2014 photo provided by China News Service. — Reuters pic

  • Family members of passengers aboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 vote to set a deadline for the company to answer their requests, including providing solatium without additional conditions, at a hotel in Beijing, March 11, 2014. — Reuters pic

  • A journalist kisses Wan Tom Wan Chik, the mother of 33-year-old Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 passenger Mohd Sofuan Razak, after an interview at the hotel where relatives of the passengers are staying in Putrajaya March 10, 2014. — Reuters pic

  • A woman holds a sign of support and hope for the passengers of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 she made and brought to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport March 11, 2014. — Reuters pic

Stolen passports

The fact that at least two passengers on board had used stolen passports, confirmed by Interpol, has raised suspicions of foul play. But Southeast Asia is known as a hub for false documents that are also used by smugglers, illegal migrants and asylum seekers.

Police chief Khalid said one of the men had been identified as a 19-year-old Iranian, Pouria Nour Mohammad Mehrdad, who appeared to be an illegal immigrant. The identity of the other was still being checked.

“We believe he is not likely to be a member of any terrorist group, and we believe he was trying to migrate to Germany,” Khalid said of the teenager. His mother was waiting for him in Frankfurt and had been in contact with authorities, he said.

Asked if that meant he ruled out a hijack, Khalid said: “(We are giving) same weightage to all (possibilities) until we complete our investigations.”

Both men entered Malaysia on Feb 28, at least one from Phuket, in Thailand, eight days before boarding the flight to Beijing, Malaysian immigration chief Aloyah Mamat told the news conference. Both held onward reservations to Western Europe.

Police in Thailand, where the passports were stolen and the tickets used by the two men were booked, said they did not think they were linked to the disappearance of the plane.

“We haven’t ruled it out, but the weight of evidence we’re getting swings against the idea that these men are or were involved in terrorism,” Supachai Puikaewcome, chief of police in the Thai resort city of Pattaya, told Reuters. — Reuters