Australia will lead a search of the remote southern Indian Ocean for a missing Malaysian jet liner, its prime minister said on Monday, amid mounting evidence the plane's disappearance was a meticulously planned act of sabotage or hijacking, Reuters reported.
No trace of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 has been found since it vanished on March 8 with 239 people aboard. Investigators are increasingly convinced it was diverted perhaps thousands of miles off course by someone with deep knowledge of the Boeing 777-200ER and commercial navigation.
Suspicions of hijacking or sabotage hardened further after it was confirmed the last radio message from the cockpit - an informal "all right, good night" - was spoken after someone had begun disabling one of the plane's automatic tracking systems.
But police and a multi-national investigation team may never know for sure what happened aboard the jetliner unless they find the plane, and that in itself is a daunting challenge.
Satellite data suggests the plane could be anywhere in either of two vast arcs: one stretching from northern Thailand to the borders of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, or a southern arc from Indonesia into the Indian Ocean west of Australia.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he had spoken to Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak by telephone, and had offered more surveillance resources in addition to the two Orion aircraft his country has already committed.
"He asked that Australia take responsibility for the search in the southern vector, which the Malaysian authorities now think was one possible flight path for this ill-fated aircraft," Abbott told parliament. "I agreed that we would do so."