The Malaysia Airlines plane that disappeared nearly a week ago was deliberately flown across the Malay peninsula towards the Andaman Islands, new military radar-tracking evidence suggests.
As the search for the passenger jetliner enters its seventh day, it has been revealed that investigators believe was Flight MH370 was following a route between navigational waypoints - indicating it was being flown by someone with aviation training - when it was last plotted on military radar off the country's northwest coast.
That course - headed into the Andaman Sea and towards the Bay of Bengal - could only have been set deliberately, either by flying the Boeing 777-200ER jet manually or by programming the auto-pilot, Reuters reported.
The comments, made by sources familiar with the investigation, are the first clear indication that foul play is the main focus of official suspicions in the Boeing 777's disappearance.
"What we can say is we are looking at sabotage, with hijack still on the cards," said that source, a senior Malaysian police official told Reuters.
Inquiries are said to be focusing increasingly on the theory that someone who knew how to fly a plane deliberately diverted the flight, with 239 people on board, hundreds of miles off its intended course from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
Malaysian authorities have also not ruled out raiding homes of crew members of the missing plane. “If investigation requires searching the pilots’ homes, it will be done,” Malaysia's acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said Friday.
He also confirmed that search and rescue parties are extending their search further east into the South China Sea due to "new information".
"The aircraft is still missing, and the search area is expanding," he said.
He said there was evidence of a plane turning back, but it may not have been the missing flight.
"We are looking at all possibilities," he said.
Hussein again said the investigators could not rule out hijacking. All possibilities are being examined, he repeated.
Unnamed sources told Reuters Friday that the last plot on the military radar's tracking suggested the plane was flying toward India's Andaman Islands, a chain of isles between the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal.
Other reports indicated US officials believe that the two communications systems aboard the plane were shut down separately, 14 minutes apart - which indicates the plane did not come down because of a sudden catastrophic failure.
The data reporting system was shut down at 1.07 am and the transponder was turned off at 1.21 am just after the the pilot signed off to Malaysian air traffic controllers with "All right, good night," and before the Boeing 777 apparently changed course and turned west.
According to investigators this indicated that the switch-off could have been a deliberate act and officials told ABC News that the two communications devices were "systematically shut down."
White House spokesman Jay Carney earlier preempted Mr Hussien's announcement, sayinga new search area for the plane could be opened in the Indian Ocean.
"It's my understanding that based on some new information that's not necessarily conclusive - but new information - an additional search area may be opened in the Indian Ocean… and we are consulting with international partners about the appropriate assets to deploy," he said.
Malaysian police have previously said they were investigating whether any passengers or crew had personal or psychological problems that might shed light on the mystery, along with the possibility of a hijacking, sabotage or mechanical failure.
But the latest revelations come amid an influx of mixed and confused reports – many of which were robustly dismissed Thursday.
A press conference Thursday morning ended with lots of denials, little new information and still no sign of the plane.
The transport minister insisted Friday that conflicting information about the missing plane is coming from external speculation, not the Malaysian government.