Raw: Search for Plane Enters New Phase

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News,World,Malaysia Airlines Disaster

Malaysia's prime minister says the jetliner missing for more than a week had its communications deliberately disabled and its last signal came about 7 1/2 hours after takeoff. (March 15)

SHOTLIST:

AP TELEVISION - AP CLIENTS ONLY

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - 15 March 2104

1. Prime Minister Najib Razak entering news briefing

2. SOUNDBITE (English) Najib Razak, Malaysian Prime Minister:

"Despite media reports that the plane was hijacked, I wish to be very clear: we are still investigating all possibilities as to what caused MH370 to deviate from its original path."

3. SOUNDBITE (English) Najib Razak, Malaysian Prime Minister:

"The aviation authorities of Malaysia and their international counterparts have determined that the plane's last communication with a satellite was in one of two possible corridors. A northern corridor stretching approximately from the border of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to northern Thailand. Or a southern corridor stretching approximately from Indonesia to (the) southern Indian Ocean."

4. SOUNDBITE (English) Najib Razak, Malaysian Prime Minister:

"We are ending our operations in (the) South China Sea and reassessing the redeployment of our assets. "

STORYLINE:

The Malaysian jetliner missing for more than a week had its communications deliberately disabled and its last signal came about 7 1/2 hours after takeoff, meaning it could have ended up as far as Kazakhstan or deep in the southern Indian Ocean, Malaysia's leader said Saturday.

Prime Minister Najib Razak's statement confirmed days of mounting speculation that the disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 was not accidental, and underlines the massive task for searchers who have been scouring vast areas of ocean.

The plane was carrying 239 people when it departed for an overnight flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing at 12:40 a.m. on March 8. The plane's communications with civilian air controllers were severed at about 1:20 a.m., and the jet went missing in one of the most puzzling mysteries in modern aviation history.

Najib said investigators now have a high degree of certainly that one of the plane's communications systems _ the Aircraft and Communications Addressing and Reporting System _ was disabled before the aircraft reached the east coast of Malaysia. Shortly afterward, someone on board then switched off the aircraft's transponder, which communicates with civilian air traffic controllers.

The prime minister then confirmed that Malaysian air force defense radar picked up traces of the plane turning back westward, crossing over Peninsular Malaysia into the northern stretches of the Strait of Malacca. Authorities previously had said this radar data could not be verified.

He then said the last confirmed signal between the plane and a satellite came at 8:11 a.m. Malaysian time _ 7 hours and 31 minutes after takeoff. Airline officials have said the plane had enough fuel to fly for up to about eight hours.

Najib said authorities had determined that the plane's last communication with a satellite was in one of two possible "corridors" _ a northern one from northern Thailand through to the border of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, and a southern one from Indonesia to the southern Indian Ocean.

He said that searching in the South China Sea, where the plane first lost contact with air traffic controllers, would be ended.

The current search involves 14 countries, 43 ships and 58 aircraft.

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