Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein has officially denied a report from CNN alleging that Malaysian fighter aircraft were scrambled to find missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 the morning after the plane was reported to have disappeared.
According to CNN, a senior Malaysian official revealed that air force search aircraft were “scrambled about 8 a.m. March 8 to the South China Sea and the Strait of Malacca, soon after Malaysia Airlines reported that its plane was missing.” The scramble allegedly occurred before radar revealed that the plane did not continue to fly in a northeasterly direction from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, but at some point turned around, ending its voyage more than one thousand miles southwest of Perth, Australia.
The CNN report adds that “the air force did not inform the Department of Civil Aviation or search and rescue operations until three days later, March 11, a source involved in the investigation told CNN.” An aviation expert also told CNN that the altitude dip the plane apparently underwent shortly after disappearing “looks like — more and more — somebody in the cockpit was directing this plane and directing it away from land.”
The Malaysian government has denied the former allegation. Hishammuddin, who is also currently the nation’s acting Transportation Minister, had his communications department tweet out a statement denying the report.
— H2O Comms (@H2OComms) April 11, 2014
In a separate tweet, Hishammuddin’s team called the report a “false allegation.” The Malay Mail Online adds that Hishammuddin has a personal account from which he tweets, in which he has been retweeting attacks on CNN as having a “bad agenda” and calling for Malaysia to sue the organization, and another claiming CNN is “on a crusade against Malaysia.” Hishammuddin himself tweeted that the network was “irresponsible.”
The Malaysian government has spent much of the search for MH370 combating allegations of impropriety and incompetence, both from international government leaders and the media. ABC, a newspaper in Spain, alleged in a report that there was a possibility the Malaysian or Thai governments shot the plane out of the sky, citing unnamed sources. Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim all but accused the Malaysian government of being “complicit in a terrorist act.” Chinese relatives of the passengers on the missing plane swarmed the Malaysian embassy in Beijing in protest.
Meanwhile, the search for Flight 370 continues with few new leads but renewed optimism from those leading the search. After a breakthrough in the search last week, in which Chinese officials heard man-made frequencies matching flight emergency items like a black box or flight recorder, the Australian search team confirmed multiple other signals that matched a black box, with Prime Minister Tony Abbott declaring that the search teams are “very confident” the signals are from a black box. The current search area teams are scouring is the smallest ever since the search for the plane began more than one month ago.