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China finds no terror link to its nationals on jet: Flight MH370

March 18, 2014, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - Checks into the background of the Chinese citizens on board the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner have uncovered no links to terrorism, the Chinese ambassador in Kuala Lumpur said Tuesday.


March 18, 2014
By The Associated Press

The remarks will dampen speculation that Uighur Muslim separatists in
far western Xinjiang province might have been involved with the
disappearance of the Boeing 777 and its 239 passengers and crew early on
March 8.

 

The plane was carrying 154 Chinese passengers, when Malaysian
officials say someone on board deliberately diverted it from its route
to Beijing less than one hour into the flight. A massive search
operation in the Indian Ocean and beyond has yet to find any trace of
the plane.

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Chinese Ambassador to Malaysia Huang Huikang said background checks
on Chinese nationals didn't uncover any evidence suggesting they were
involved in hijacking or an act of terrorism against the plane,
according to the state Xinhua News Agency.

 

Uighur groups have been involved in attacks inside China, and some
have a presence in the Afghan-Pakistan border area, where al-Qaeda and
other transnational jihadi groups are based.

 

Malaysian police are investigating the pilots and ground engineers of
the plane, and have asked intelligence agencies from countries with
passengers on board to carry out background checks on those passengers.

Malaysian authorities say that someone on board the flight switched
off two vital pieces of communication equipment, allowing the plane to
fly almost undetected. Satellite data shows it might have ended up
somewhere in a giant arc stretching from Central Asia to the southern
reaches of the Indian Ocean.

 

Huang said China had begun searching for the plane on its territory,
but gave no details. When asked at a Foreign Ministry briefing Tuesday
in Beijing what this search involved, ministry spokesman Hong Lei said
only that satellites and radar were being used.

 

A Chinese civilian aviation official previously has said that there
was no sign of the plane entering the country's airspace on commercial
radar. The government has not said whether this has been confirmed by
military radar data.

 

Malaysian police say they are investigating the possibility of
hijacking, sabotage, terrorism or issues related to the mental health of
the pilots or anyone else on board, but have yet to give any update on
what they have uncovered.

 

Malaysian military radar spotted the plane in the northern reaches of
the Strait of Malacca at 2:14 a.m. local time on March 8, just over 1½
hours after it took off from Kuala Lumpur. That is the plane's last
known confirmed position. A signal to a satellite from the plane at 8:11
a.m. suggests that, by then, it was somewhere in a broad arc spanning
from Kazakhstan to the Indian Ocean west of Australia.

 

Investigators are scouring over what little data they have to try
to determine who was in control of the plane when it stopped
communicating. They have indicated that whoever was in control must have
had aviation experience and knowledge of commercial flight paths.

 

On Monday, Malaysian Airlines CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said an initial
investigation indicated that the last words ground controllers heard
from the plane — "All right, good night" — were spoken by the
co-pilot, Fariq Abdul Hamid.

 

On Sunday, the defence minister Hishammuddin Hussein said this were
spoken before the jetliner's data communications systems — the Aircraft
Communications Addressing and Reporting System — had been switched off,
suggesting the voice from the cockpit was knowingly deceiving ground
controllers.

 

But Ahmad made a potentially significant change to that timeline.

 

Speaking alongside Hishammuddin, he said that while the final data
transmission from ACARS, which gives plane performance and maintenance
information, came before the co-pilot's words, it was still unclear at
what point the system was switched off.

 

The search for the plane is one of the largest in aviation history, and now involves 26 countries.

It was initially focused on seas on either side of Peninsular
Malaysia, in the South China Sea and the Strait of Malacca. It has since
expanded to include the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal and 11
countries to the northwest that the plane in theory could have crossed,
including China and India.

 

American, Australian and Indonesian planes and ships are searching
waters to the south of Indonesia's Sumatra Island all the way down to
the southern reaches of the Indian Ocean.

 

China was also sending ships to the Indian Ocean, where they will
search two blocks of sea covering a total of 300,000 square kilometres,
or three times the area they had searched in the South China Sea.

 

The area being covered by the Australians is even bigger — 600,000
square kilometres — and will take weeks to search thoroughly, said John
Young, manager of Australian Maritime Safety Authority's emergency
response division.

 

"This search will be difficult. The sheer size of the search area
poses a huge challenge," Young said. "A needle in a haystack remains a
good analogy."