Pilots focus of Malaysia missing plane: US lawmaker

national March 16, 2014 00:00

By Agence France-Presse

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US intelligence is focusing on the pilot and co-pilot's role in the disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines jet that vanished March 8 with 239 people on board, a key US lawmaker said Sunday.

"One thing we do know, this was not an accident. It was an intentional, deliberate act, to bring down this airplane. And the question is who is behind that," said Michael McCaul, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.

McCaul, speaking on Fox News Sunday, said that while there was no evidence at this point the disappearance was terrorism related, US authorities were concerned about a scenario in which the Boeing 777 may have landed somewhere to be used later as a weapon.

He said there were two routes it could have taken: one north toward Kazakhstan, which likely would have been picked up by radar.

"The other one is it landed in a country like Indonesia, where it could be used later on as a cruise missile, as the 9/11 hijackers did," he said.

McCaul ticked off warning signs that the plane was deliberately taken off course.

Among them: the plane's transponder was turned off before it made an abrupt change of course, two Iranians aboard had stolen passports, one-way tickets were bought with cash.

Malaysian authorities have launched a full scale criminal probe, expanded the search area, and searched the homes of both pilots, examining the captain's home flight simulator. 

"I think from all the information I've been briefed on from, you know, high levels within homeland security, national counterterrorism center, intelligence community, that something was going on with the pilot," he said.

"I think this all leads towards the cockpit, with the pilot himself, and co-pilot," he said.


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