While the search for missing
British satellite telecommunications company Inmarsat said Friday that signals from the
Inmarsat said the information was given to SITA, a multinational air transport communications and information technology company, which in turn has shared it with Malaysia Airlines.
The disclosure comes amid a new report by Reuters news agency that the aircraft might have been headed northwest toward India, over the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal, and following a commonly used navigational route, suggesting that somebody with aviation expertise was flying the aircraft. The Friday article cited unidentified sources.
There are 13 countries scouring the region with ships, spy satellites, and submarine-hunting aircraft for any sign of the Boeing 777 and its 239 passengers. The last known point of radar contact with the jet was midway between Malaysia's east coast and the southern tip of Vietnam.
In first few days after the plane fell off radar screens, investigators were looking at the possibility of a hijacking or sabotage, focusing on two passengers traveling on stolen passports.
Those passengers have since been identified as two young Iranian men who authorities have said have no links to terror groups and appeared to be seeking entry to Europe in order to work.
Malaysian officials, speaking at a news conference Friday, acknowledged that the shutting off of the transponder could indicate that there had been a hijacking.
"It could have been done intentionally," said Hishamuddin Hussein, Malaysia's acting transportation minister. "It could have been done under duress. It could have happened as a result of an explosion.''
Malaysian officials said they would expand their search toward India on the possibility that the airplane had veered in that direction, but that they would also continue to search closer to the original flight path in the South China Sea.
"This is not a formal investigation that becomes narrower with time," Hishamuddin said. "The new information forces us to look further afield.''