Malaysian officials have confirmed a report that the pilot of missing Malaysia Airlines 370, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, flew a path into the southern Indian Ocean on his flight simulator — a new piece of information that arouses suspicions once again on Shah’s state of mind when the plane disappeared two years ago.
Shah’s flight simulator, which he used to train for commercial flights at home, has been the subject of much curiosity since the fight disappeared. On the month of the plane’s disappearance, authorities confirmed that he had plotted at least five flight paths into the Indian Ocean, all targeting landing strips in the Maldives, India, and Sri Lanka. At the time, Maldives residents had claimed to witness bizarre lights over their skies on the night of the plane’s disappearance.
Rumors swirled in the following months that Shah had locked his co-pilot out of the cabin and manually shut down the plane’s communications mechanisms. Shah is known to have canceled RSVPs to events scheduled for later in March 2014 before the flight.
It was not until last week, however, that New York magazine reported that Shah had plotted a flight route into the southern Indian Ocean, with no landing strip (or land) as a target, according to an FBI analysis. Malaysian authorities initially denied the report. “There has been no evidence to prove the pilot had intentionally brought down the plane into the southern Indian Ocean,” Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said following the report. He confirmed the flight path was on the simulator but claimed there were “thousands” of flight paths on it, making it difficult to identify it as conclusive evidence. Experts also noted that, judging from the few pieces of debris found of the plane so far, it is unlikely anyone was controlling the plane’s descent.
The evidence nonetheless exists of Shah practicing a flight which had an apparent destination of the middle of the southern Indian Ocean. The relatives of those onboard, most of whom were Chinese nationals, have condemned the Malaysian government for taking this long to reveal this evidence.
“It is another irresponsible thing the Malaysian government has done to try to fool the relatives and cover up the truth and the conspiracy. We relatives strongly protest it and strongly demand the discovery of our loved ones,” Li Xinmao, whose daughter and son-in-law were on the flight, told the Associated Press. Chinese relatives have protested in front of Beijing’s Malaysian embassy on multiple occasions, demanding a more responsible investigation.
Zaharie Ahmad Shah’s online footprint indicates he was heavily interested in Malaysian politics and a supporter of jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. Shah was later identified as the uncle of Ibrahim’s daughter-in-law, and Ibrahim himself spoke well of him in the immediate aftermath of the plane’s disappearance. Shah appeared on Facebook with a friend wearing a “Democracy is Dead” shirt and posted friendly statements about Ibrahim. He has been described as a “fanatical” Ibrahim supporter.
Anwar Ibrahim has close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, as the co-founder of the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), a Muslim Brotherhood group with ties to fundraising for Islamic terrorist groups. Identified by the Obama administration as a “moderate” Muslim leader, he has enjoyed visits from then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and National Security Adviser Susan Rice. He has been convicted twice in Malaysia of “sodomy,” which remains a crime in the Islamic country. Ibrahim denies the charges and claims his arrests have been politically motivated.
At least one piece of debris from MH370, a flaperon wing part, has been confirmed found off the coast of Reunion Island in Africa. Authorities are working to confirm various pieces of debris found off the coast of Madagascar suspected of having originated from the flight. Investigators have repeatedly stated that solving the MH370 mystery will require the discovery of the plane’s black boxes, which, along with most of the plane, has disappeared without a trace.