Malaysia expands search area for missing jet, mystery deepens

Malaysia expands search area for missing jet, mystery deepens

The "unprecedented mystery" of a missing Malaysian plane deepened today as no trace of its wreckage found even after three days of multinational operations, prompting authorities to expand the area of search and look into "every angle" including hijacking.

Hopes faded for the relatives of 239 people on board, including five Indians, as Malaysian authorities failed to locate the Beijing-bound Boeing 777-200 flight MH370 of Malaysia Airlines that went missing over the South China Sea on Friday.

"Unfortunately, we have not found anything that appears to be objects from the aircraft, let alone the aircraft itself," Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, head of Malaysia's Department of Civil Aviation (DCA), said at a news conference.

"This unprecedented missing aircraft mystery -- it is mystifying and we are increasing our efforts to do what we have to do," he said.

Rahman said investigators were pursuing "every angle" to explain its disappearance, including hijacking. Counter- terrorism agencies and the FBI are also involved in the probe.He discounted reports that a plane door had been spotted.

"That report was not verified officially by the Vietnamese authorities," Rahman said. Another report said the plane's tail had been found. that, too, is untrue, he said.

Officials also denied that the oil slick found in waters off Malaysia near the last known location of the missing airliner was from the aircraft.

An official said lab tests found that the oil was used for Tongkang, a light wooden boat used in South East Asia.

Currently, 34 planes, 40 ships and teams from ten countries are involved in search operations. Rahman said the DCA is expanding the area of search operations in the next few days. He said right now they just cannot speculate what happened to the aircraft as it has not been found.

He said that besides searching in waters between Malaysia and Vietnam, authorities were also searching on land in Malaysia and off western Malaysia.

No emergency signal has been detected and family members of passengers are being told to prepare for the worst.

Malaysia yesterday launched a terror probe into the disappearance of the plane that suddenly vanished from the radar one hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur Airport.

The probe was launched after it emerged that two passengers boarded the flight with stolen passports of an Italian and Austrian. One of the two suspects, who travelled on the plane on stolen passports has been identified.

Rahman said they are probing a stolen passport syndicate and confirmed that the two suspects were not Asian-looking.

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