Malaysia Airlines Plane Landed In Central Asia Region, Officials Now Believe

Jonathan Vankin

The Malyasia Airlines plane now vanished without a trace for over a week was the victim of one of the most sophisticated criminal operations ever to target an aircraft and its passengers. That, it is becoming clear, is now the consensus belief of officials and searchers who have been frustrated in their efforts to find the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

Malaysia government authorities have now shifted their focus from a search for wreckage of the Malaysia Airlnes Boeing 777-200 to a criminal investigation of who stole the plane in mid-air, and why.

A BBC reporter stated via Twitter Saturday morning that he is learning where the officials now believe the plane may have landed — a region in Central Asia dominated by China's Uyghur ethnic minority. Uyghur separatist extremists have been waging a violent terror campaign against China.

— Jonah Fisher (@JonahFisher) March 15, 2014

BBC correspondent Jonah Fisher said via Twitter that he is told the plane probably touched down somewhere along the border of China and neighboring Kyrgyzstan.

That area includes the Uyghur heartland, China's Xinjiang province.

What was just a few days a considered a highly improbable, even fanciful theory — that a highly sophisticated jetliner such as the Malaysia Airlines 777-200 carrying 239 passengers could be commandeered and stolen in mid-flight without anyone on the ground having a clue — is now the official belief of the Malaysian government.

No less a source that Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak said exactly that in a public statement on Saturday. Razak announced that his government has concluded that the plane was deliberately diverted and flown for as many as seven hours toward a point in Central Asia.

If not Central Asia, the plane could also have flown toward somewhere between the Indonesian capital city of Jakarta and the Indian Ocean.

The two possibilities are based on data received by a satellite more than 22,000 miles over the Indian Ocean which at 8:11 am on March 8 received the last detected signal from the missing Malaysia Airlines plane. Based on the trajectory of that signal reaching the satellite, investigators narrowed the plane's location down to two "arcs."

Either arc still covers a vast area. But if BBC reporter Fisher has good information, investigators may have already eliminated the Indonesia-Indian Ocean arc as a possibility for the Malaysia Airlines plane's final destination, or at least consider it the less likely of the two.

The conclusion that the plane was stolen and almost certainly landed leaves open the questions not only of where the plane now is, but also, what has become of its 239 passengers and crew.

Did whoever took the Malaysia Airlines plane simply murder all of the passengers, in order to use the plane for some other, nefarious purpose? Or or are they still alive somewhere, held hostage?

More than a week has gone by since whoever stole the Malaysia Airlines plane accomplished their incredible task — if in fact, that is what happened — and there has been no communication or claim of responsibility for the act.