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Malaysia seeks more help in search for airliner

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysian officials, faced with mounting frustration over the progress of their investigation of an airliner that disappeared 11 days ago, made an international appeal Tuesday for help in finding it.

The search has been bedeviled by scant information and contradictory reports, prompting Chinese Ambassador Huang Huikang to say the Malaysians were "inexperienced and lacking the capacity" to carry out the investigation properly.

Malaysia also has been slow to line up help from other countries, including the United States, that have expertise or information that could speed up the search. Although a group of U.S. crash investigators has been in Kuala Lumpur for more than a week, the nation has not accepted assistance from a team at the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office waiting to depart for Malaysia.

But a U.S. senior law enforcement official said the Malaysian government is starting to cooperate with the FBI and American intelligence agents.

In Bangkok, a Thai air force spokesman said that Thai military radar may have spotted Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 just as it steered away from its intended path from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing and after its transponder was cut off. But Air Vice Marshal Montol Suchookorn said officials did not share the information because Malaysia did not specifically request it, the Associated Press reported.

Had Thailand's disclosure come earlier, it might have directed the search away from the Gulf of Thailand, which crews combed for seven days on the theory that the airliner, with 239 people aboard, had perhaps crashed at the same time that it disappeared from civilian radar March 8. The focus of the search now is farther to the west, in particular the Indian Ocean.

Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, speaking at a news conference, brushed off criticism that his government has held back information or been slow to follow possible leads. He said Malaysia is cooperating with the FBI and other international law enforcement authorities.

He asked the United States to scrutinize data from defense satellites and airborne radar. He also requested more U.S. vessels in the Indian Ocean.

Malaysia acknowledged for the first time that other countries needed to take leading roles in scouring a grid about the size of Australia. Malaysia said it has divided that grid into 14 sections and negotiated for Australia, China, Indonesia and Kazakhstan to coordinate efforts in some of those areas.

PRAYER FOR passengers: A Malaysian boy prays for passengers on the missing Malaysia Airline plane at an event Tuesday at a shopping mall in Petaling Jaya, on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia’s defense minister defended the country’s handling of the search and inquiry.

Associated Press

PRAYER FOR passengers: A Malaysian boy prays for passengers on the missing Malaysia Airline plane at an event Tuesday at a shopping mall in Petaling Jaya, on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia’s defense minister defended the country’s handling of the search and inquiry.

Role of Chinese citizens ruled out

The Chinese government said Tuesday that it had ruled out the possibility that any of the Chinese citizens on the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner were terrorists, separatists or malcontents who might have tried to hijack or destroy it. About two-thirds of the 227 passengers were Chinese. The announcement seemed likely to increase the pressure on investigators to determine whether the pilot or co-pilot of the missing jet, both Malaysians, or anyone else onboard was involved in its disappearance.

New York Times

Malaysia seeks more help in search for airliner 03/18/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 19, 2014 12:16am]
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