WASHINGTON — The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee said Sunday that the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 was "not an accident," but he stopped short of suggesting terrorism was involved.
"One thing we know: This was not an accident. It was an intentional, deliberate act to bring down this airplane," Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said on "Fox News Sunday." "We don't have any evidence this was terrorist-related, although you can't rule that out at this point in time."
The investigation has turned to the passengers and crew of the plane that went missing from radar more than a week ago after departing Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital, en route to Beijing, with 227 passengers and 12 crew members on board.
Amid reports that Malaysian authorities have searched the homes of the plane's pilot and co-pilot, the congressman said that "all the evidence ... is pointing toward the cockpit, toward the pilot and the co-pilot."
Malaysian authorities have indicated that someone aboard the plan disabled one of its communications systems, called the Aircraft and Communications Addressing and Reporting System, or ACARS, about 27 minutes after takeoff and turned off the transponder, which links the plane to ground radar systems, about 14 minutes later.
On Sunday, Malaysia's acting transportation minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, said at a news conference in Kuala Lumpur that that the final, reassuring words from the cockpit — “All right, good night” — were spoken to air traffic controllers after the ACARS system was shut down, the Associated Press reported. Whoever spoke did not mention any trouble on board.
Malaysian air force Maj. Gen. Affendi Buang told reporters he did not know whether it was the pilot or co-pilot who spoke to air traffic controllers, the AP reported.
Malaysian officials said they are not yet classifying the incident as a hijacking and are considering the possibility of a suicide mission by one of the passengers or crew.
The Malaysian government on Sunday said it was searching a wide swath of Asia for the Boeing 777. Satellite intelligence has suggested two possible routes — one to the northwest with possible destinations of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, China, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam or Thailand, and another to the south over the Indian Ocean between Indonesia and Australia.
“We are looking at large tracts of land. We are crossing 11 countries and as well as deep and remote oceans,” Hishammuddin said.
In Washington, another top Republican, Rep. Mike Rogers of Michigan, said on "Face the Nation" that investigators are creating a "big matrix, from the plausible to the probable," with a "thorough investigation of everyone on the plane."
Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, warned, though, that such work will take an "intense amount of time" and may lead to "the biggest dead-end yet."
"The most probable circumstance is, that in fact it is at the bottom of the Indian Ocean," he said.
Times staff writer Barbara Demick in Beijing contributed to this report.