The disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 last week is still shrouded in mystery, but the ongoing investigation brought to light new elements that make the hypothesis of a plane hijacking more likely and point to the captain as the main suspect of carrying it out.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak declared on Saturday to have opened a criminal investigation into the aircraft disappearance as evidence emerged that the plane was deliberately diverted from its scheduled flight path but was kept in the air for hours, after someone on board cut communication with the ground.
The prime minister also revealed the Malaysian military radars were able to register traces of the aircraft turning westward toward the northern part of the Strait of Malacca after crossing the Malaysian Peninsula. The revelation came as a surprise, as authorities had previously said that the radar information was not available. It is not clear, however, why Malaysian air forces were not able to detect the plane flying over the country and respond appropriately.
From its orbit over the middle of the Indian Ocean, a Satellite received signals from the Malaysia Airlines plane for over 7 hours after the moment the connection with air traffic controllers was lost.
Based on the angle from which the signals were sent, investigators were able to calculate that the airliner may have steered toward a northern route that stretches from northern Thailand to southern border of Kazakhstan or a southern route that goes from Jakarta to the open Indian Ocean, some 1000 miles off the coast of Australia.
According to Fox News, it is unlikely that the plane took the northern route as that would have meant to cross dozens of countries and it would have left traces. Therefore, the hypothesis of the southern path remains more likely and would explain the lack of information, as the Southern Indian Ocean is one of the most remote and deepest water expanse in the world. If the plane crashed there, it might take months to find the wreckage.
Meanwhile the British newspaper Mail on Sunday reported that the Malaysia Airlines captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah has become the main suspect as investigators found a flight simulator in his home that may have been used by the pilot to carry out the plane hijacking.
Neighbors and colleagues describe Shah as flying enthusiast who had set up the flight simulator in his home out of passion for his profession. However, there are clues that are leading investigator to focus on the pilot’s alleged political activism as a possible motive.
According to Mail on Sunday police investigation revealed that Shah was a passionate political activist and a staunch supporter of Anwar Ibrahim, a Malaysian opposition leader on trial for sodomy whom, according to many, is the victim of a political conspiracy.
It is understood that just seven hours before boarding the flight MH370, the pilot had attended the trial during which Mr. Ibrahim was found guilty and jailed for five years. Investigators fear that Mr. Shah could have been extremely upset by the court decision and may have decided to hijack his own plane as a reaction. However, Reuters reported a close colleague of the captain as claiming that Mr. Shah is neither suicidal nor a “political fanatic as some foreign media are saying.”
Terrorism is apparently also back on the list of hypothesis. The British newspaper Sunday Telegraph wrote today that investigators in Malaysia are also examining the possibility of an Al Qaeda plot that was mentioned earlier this week by British-born terrorist Saajid Badat in a New York trial.
According to the paper, Sadat told the court about the existence of a Malaysia-based terrorist cell of four people, that he personally met at a terror camp in Afghanistan and that was planning to take control of a plane. Badat said one of them claimed to be a pilot and received a shoe bomb for use by the terrorists. British security experts regard Badat account as credible.
While mystery still surrounds the disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines, the new elements emerged on Sunday point at the captain as the main suspect in the hijacking hypothesis and suggest that the plane wreckage may be eventually found in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
By Stefano Salustri