MH370: Deputy minister admits he assumed wrongly on turn-back

MH370: Deputy minister admits he assumed wrongly on turn-back

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's Deputy Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Bakri admitted his assumption was not accurate, a day after he said the Royal Malaysian Air Force did not intercept Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 after it was detected by military radar because it assumed the flight had been ordered to turn back by air traffic controllers.

"In relation to my statement in the debate for the Royal Address yesterday (on Thursday), in which I said MH370 did a turn-back probably because it received instructions from air traffic control, I want to clarify that it was just my assumption and one of the possibilities that could have happened," Datuk Abdul Rahim was quoted by The Malaysian Insider as saying on Thursday.

"After making checks, I would like to stress that my assumption is not accurate," he said in a two-paragraph statement in Kuala Lumpur yesterday (Thursday).

On Wednesday, Mr Abdul Rahim had sought to explain to Parliament why no action was taken when the unidentified plane was spotted.

"It was detected by our radar, but the turn-back was by a non-hostile plane and we thought maybe it was at the directive of the control tower," he said during his winding-up address for the Defence Ministry.

Asked later at Wednesday's news conference whether air force radar operators thought the plane had been told to turn back by air traffic controllers, Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, who is also Defence Minister, said he could not confirm it.

After turning back in the early hours of March 8, the MAS plane, with 239 passengers and crew, flew across Peninsular Malaysia before disappearing over the Strait of Malacca.

On Monday, Prime Minister Najib Razak announced that the missing MH370 had "ended its flight" in the southern Indian Ocean.

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