The West

Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein on Saturday cast doubt on a report citing unnamed investigators that MH370's co-pilot had tried to make a mid-flight call from his mobile phone just before the plane vanished.

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Search for Flight 370 Narrows


The New Straits Times, quoting an anonymous source, said the alleged call ended abruptly possibly "because the aircraft was fast moving away from the (telecommunications) tower".

"The telco's tower established the call that he was trying to make," an unnamed source told the New Strait Times.

"On why the call was cut off, it was likely because the aircraft was fast moving away from the tower and had not come under the coverage of the next one."

But the publication also quoted another source saying there was no certainty that a call was actually made.

They said that the connection made by the tower to Fariq's phone didn't necessarily mean a call was made, but that the phone had simply been turned on again.

The source said that the phone was "detached" before flight MH370 left Kuala Lumpur.

"This is usually the result of the phone being switched off. At one point, however, when the airplane was airborne, between waypoint Igari and the spot near Penang (just before the plane went missing from radar) the line was 'reattached'," the second source said.

Hishamuddin declined to confirm or deny the report.

"I cannot comment because if it is true, we would have known about it much earlier," Hishamuddin told Malaysian news agency Bernama.

He added meanwhile that he would request that two officials from the Malaysian Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) be sent to join the JACC.

Fariq and Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah have come under intense scrutiny after the plane mysteriously disappeared.

Search continues

There was no let-up in the air and sea search for the missing Malaysian airliner off Australia on Saturday as Prime Minister Tony Abbott warned that locating Flight MH370 would still likely take a long time.

Abbott appeared to step back from his comments Friday when he voiced great confidence that signals from the black box had been detected -- his most upbeat assessment so far that triggered speculation that a breakthrough was imminent.

Retired air chief marshal Angus Houston who heads the hunt from Perth, had quickly issued a statement clarifying that there had been no breakthrough.

On Saturday, Abbott repeated his confidence in the search, but put the accent on the challenges ahead.

"We do have a high degree of confidence the transmissions we have been picking up are from flight MH370," Abbott said on the last day of his visit to China.

But he added, "no one should under-estimate the difficulties of the task ahead of us.

"Yes we have very considerably narrowed down the search area but trying to locate anything 4.5 kilometres beneath the surface of the ocean about a thousand kilometres from land is a massive, massive task and it is likely to continue for a long time to come."

The Australian-led search for the Boeing 777, which disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, is racing to gather as many signals as possible to determine an exact resting place before a submersible is sent down to find wreckage.

On Saturday's operations, the Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) said: "Australian defence vessel Ocean Shield continues more focused sweeps with the towed pinger locator to try and locate further signals related to the aircraft's black boxes."

Scammers target families

Scammers are targeting relatives of those aboard missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370.

A bogus email has been sent to the families of missing passengers suggesting compensation claims are possible even though the aircraft hasn't yet been found.

"At a minimum, an international aviation treaty allows the next-of-kin of the plane's MH370 passengers to seek up to US$175,000 equivalent in your local currency," it says.

This purports to come from Allen Helter of Malaysia Airlines and urges those claiming to contact Mohamed Bin Abd Wahab of the Eon Bank in Kuala Lumpur.

However, the email originates from an account in Hong Kong.

It appears to be a standard advance fee fraud, with those seeking compensation first required to pay administrative charges before funds can be released.

A woman, one of the relatives of Chinese passengers aboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 shows her mobile phone displaying a photo of her father, who was aboard the missing plane near the wall displaying messages of wishes for the passengers at a hotel in Beijing, China. Photo: AP

Focus turns on Malaysian authorities

Malaysia's government has begun investigating civil aviation and military authorities to determine why opportunities to identify and track Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 were missed in the chaotic hours after it vanished, two officials said.

The preliminary internal enquiries come as tensions mount between civilian and military authorities over who bears most responsibility for the initial confusion and any mistakes that led to a week-long search in the wrong ocean.

"What happened at that time is being investigated and I can't say any more than that because it involves the military and the government," a senior government official told Reuters.

In an interview with Reuters last weekend, Malaysia Airlines Chief Executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said internal enquiries were under way, although he declined to give details.

A government spokesman did not respond to Reuters questions over whether an investigation had been launched. The senior government source said it was aimed at getting a detailed picture of the initial response. It was unclear which government department was in charge or whether a formal probe had been opened.

Malaysia's opposition coalition has demanded a parliamentary inquiry into what happened on the ground in those first few hours. Government officials have said any formal inquiry should not begin until the flight's black box recorders are found.

In this map provided on Friday, April 11, 2014, by the Joint Agency Coordination Centre, details are presented on the search for the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in the southern Indian Ocean off the Australian west coast.. Photo: AP

The Boeing 777 was carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew when it disappeared on March 8. Malaysia says it believes the plane crashed into the southern Indian Ocean after being deliberately diverted from its Kuala Lumpur-to-Beijing route.

A search effort is taking place well out to sea off the Australian city of Perth to try to locate any wreckage as well as the recorders which may provide answers to what happened onboard.

Authorities had narrowed down the search area for the plane to a 10-square kilometre radius as the hunt for the black box narrowed.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has briefed Chinese President Xi Jinping about the search for MH370, warning him there could be a long and painstaking road ahead.

Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) co-pilot squadron leader Brett McKenzie, left, and Flight Engineer Trent Wyatt sit in the cockpit aboard a P-3 Orion on route to search over the southern Indian Ocean looking for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. Photo: AP

Mr Abbott updated President Xi on the Australian-led search effort for the Malaysia Airlines plane in the Indian Ocean during a bilateral meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

The prime minister said Australian authorities had very much narrowed down the search area to some kilometres after receiving "strong detections" from what they're confident is the plane's black box.

But he didn't mince words, warning his Chinese counterpart there was still a long way to go.
"This will be a very long, slow and painstaking process," he said.

News limited websites have reported Mr Abbott told the Chinese President that the Australian ship Ocean Shield had narrowed down the search area in the Indian Ocean where pings from the flight recorders were detected to a grid of around 10km by 10km.

Mr Abbott's comments came after a day of somewhat mixed messages from authorities leading the search for MH370, which has been missing for five weeks, since March 8.

The prime minister told business leaders in Shanghai on Friday that the search in the Indian Ocean was narrowing.

"We are confident that we know the position of the black box flight recorder to within some kilometres," Mr Abbott said.

A short time later Australian search coordinator, retired Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, indicated there was little change in the search area.

"On the information I have available to me, there has been no major breakthrough in the search for MH370," Mr Houston said.

He said signals apparently detected by an Australian search aircraft on Thursday were ruled not to have come from a black box flight recorder.

The Joint Agency Coordination Centre issued a statement on Friday saying the search area still totalled 46,713 square kilometres - vastly different from Mr Abbott's statement.

Still, there remains strong hope that the flight's all-important black box recorder could be found.

Its batteries are expected to expire soon, so time remains critical.

The Australian vessel Ocean Shield has to date recorded four signals that are believed to have come from at least a black box recorder.

The Ocean Shield on Friday was in an area about 2200km northwest of Perth continuing sweeps of its pinger locator to detect further signals.

Orion aircraft were also continuing the search.

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