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Police are considering the possibility of hijacking, sabotage, terrorism or issues related to the mental health of the pilots or anyone else on board, and have asked for background checks from abroad on all foreign passengers.
Hishammuddin said such checks have been received for all the foreigners except those from Ukraine and Russia — which account for three passengers. "So far, no information of significance on any passengers has been found," he said.
The 53-year-old pilot joined Malaysia Airlines in 1981 and had more than 18,000 hours of flight experience. People who knew Zaharie from his involvement in opposition political circles in Malaysia and other areas of his life have described him as sociable, humble, caring and dedicated to his job.
The crisis has exposed the lack of a failsafe way of tracking modern passenger planes on which data transmission systems and transponders — which make them visible to civilian radar — have been severed. At enormous cost, 26 countries are helping Malaysia look for the plane.
Relatives of passengers on the missing airliner — two-thirds of them from China — have grown increasingly angry over the lack of progress in the search. Planes sweeping vast expanses of the Indian Ocean and satellites peering on Central Asia have turned up no new clues.
At a hotel near the Kuala Lumpur airport, one of the Chinese women who was removed from the room displayed a banner that said, in part, "We are against the Malaysian government for hiding the truth." She later expressed frustration with officials.
"We launch our demands every day but to no answer, and they tell me to come back the next day," she said. "No answer, every day."
The father of passenger Pushpanathan Subramaniam said in an interview that the wait was "really too much."
"I don’t know why it is taking so long for so many people to find the plane. It’s 12 days," said 60-year-old Subaramaniam Gurusamy from his home on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. His 34-year-old son, Pushpanathan, was on the flight to Beijing for a work trip.
"He’s the one son I have," Subaramaniam said.
Hishammuddin said a delegation of Malaysian government officials, diplomats, air force and civil aviation officials will head to Beijing — where many of the passengers’ relatives are gathered — to brief the next of kin on the status of the search.
Aircraft from Australia, the U.S. and New Zealand searched an area stretching across 305,000 square kilometers (117,000 square miles) of the Indian Ocean, about 2,600 kilometers (1,600 miles) southwest of Perth, on Australia’s west coast. Merchant ships were also asked to look for any trace of the plane.
China has said it was reviewing radar data and deployed 21 satellites to search the northern corridor, although it is considered less likely that the plane could have taken that route without being detected by military radar systems of the countries in that region.
Indonesian Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro said Indonesia military radar didn’t pick up any signs of Flight 370 on the day the plane went missing. He said Malaysia had asked Indonesia to intensify the search in its assigned zone in the Indian Ocean west of Sumatra, but said his air force was strained in the task.
"We will do our utmost. We will do our best. But you do have to understand our limitations," Purnomo said.
Associated Press writers Eric Tucker in Washington, Rod McGuirk, Satish Cheney and Chris Brummitt in Kuala Lumpur, Niniek Karmini in Jakarta, Indonesia, and Kristen Gelineau in Sydney, Australia, contributed to this report.
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