Missing MH370: Examining the motives

Missing MH370: Examining the motives

KUALA LUMPUR - Who did it, and why? As things stand, we know that the aircraft, which had made the turnback and whose last known position was 200 miles northwest of Penang, was Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

We also know that it had its communications gear switched off. The first to go was the aircraft communications addressing and reporting system (ACARS). Moments later, the transponder was disabled. Both these acts require an intimate knowledge of the aircraft's systems. The latest revelation said that the last "contact" with MH370 was at 8.11am on Saturday.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, in a briefing yesterday, said that the focus of the search had shifted to a northern and a southern corridor. This would take the aircraft headed northwest towards the Middle East, or, via the southern corridor, to one of the "loneliest places in the world" -- the Indian Ocean.

Authorities are neither confirming, nor denying that it's a hijacking but CNN said investigators were now shifting their focus to the 12-member crew and 227 passengers.

The list of suspects is long. Anyone on board could have had the means, the motivation and the opportunity to take control of the aircraft.

More effective if operating in groups, commandeering of aircraft by singletons are theoretically possible -- all you need is speed, agility and violence of action. The resulting confusion and panic in the cabin would create enough destabilising effect which would allow someone to seize control of the aircraft.

Most hijackings are politically motivated. In the 1970s, the Middle East was a hotbed for hijackings and the landscape was littered with hulks of burning jetliners. Demands ranged from the release of political prisoners to making a political statement (which never ends well) and political asylum.

While local investigators and Interpol had initially said that the two Iranians who had boarded the flight using stolen passports were not involved, John Goglia, a 40-year veteran of the United States National Transportation and Safety Board, said that he had long learned not to rule anything out. No matter how implausible it sounds.

Details of those on board have not been made public but there were some 153 Chinese nationals and at least one Uighur. Longstanding geo-political issues and discontent may have played a part.

Greed or financial gain could also explain why the Boeing 777-200ER twinjet went off the grid. Claims that 20 employees of a Texas-based technology firm, which develops components for hi-tech weapons and aircraft navigation systems, were on board have fuelled speculation that this was a high-stakes "snatch-and-grab" job by someone who wanted to harvest that technology, develop new weapons and sell them to the highest bidder.

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