Malaysia says no mid-flight phone call from MH370 cockpit

Malaysia says no mid-flight phone call from MH370 cockpit
Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein (C) speaks during a press conference on the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in Kuala Lumpur on April 7, 2014.

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia on Sunday rejected claims that phone calls were made from Flight MH370 before it vanished, but refused to rule out any possibility in a so far fruitless investigation into the jet's disappearance.

The New Straits Times, quoting an anonymous source, had reported Saturday that co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid made a call which ended abruptly, possibly "because the aircraft was fast moving away from the (telecommunications) tower".

There had also been unconfirmed reports of calls by the Malaysia Airlines plane's captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah before or during the flight.

Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told reporters Sunday that authorities had no knowledge of any calls from the jet's cockpit.

"As far as I know, no," he said when asked if any calls had been made. However, he added that he did not want to speculate on "the realm of the police and other international agencies" investigating the case.

"I do not want to disrupt the investigations that are being done now not only by the Malaysian police but the FBI, MI6, Chinese intelligence and other intelligence agencies," he said at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur.

Hishammuddin also said no passenger on the plane had been cleared in the criminal investigation into the fate of the flight, clarifying an earlier indication from Malaysia's police chief.

"The Inspector-General of Police said at that particular point in time there is nothing to find suspicion with the passenger manifesto but... unless we find more information, specifically the data in the black box, I don't think any chief of police will be in a position to say they have been cleared."

The police chief also clarified last week that passengers had not categorically been cleared since the investigation was ongoing.

Pilots under scrutiny

Pilots Fariq and Zaharie have come under intense scrutiny since the plane vanished en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board on March 8, with still no clue as to the cause of the disappearance.

Investigators last month indicated that the flight was deliberately diverted and its communication systems manually switched off as it was leaving Malaysian airspace, triggering a criminal investigation by police which has revealed little so far.

Several theories have been put forward, including hijacking, a terrorist plot or a pilot gone rogue. But authorities are grasping at straws as to the fate of the plane without crucial data from the jet's "black box" flight recorder, which has yet to be located, and without any wreckage.

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