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By Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times

BEIJING — Aviation experts are returning to the theory that Malaysia Airlines flight 370 fell victim to foul play.

“Somebody did something deliberate,” said Mikael Robertsson, cofounder of FlightRadar24, which tracks about 120,000 flights per day.

Robertsson said the transponder, which pilots use for communications, switched off 40 minutes into the flight, something that could happen only if it was turned off or if the plane had been destroyed.

Among the 13 countries now searching for the missing plane, the United States is moving the navy destroyer USS Kidd from the Gulf of Thailand — the original flight path — westward to the Strait of Malacca.

The Reuters news agency, citing unidentified sources, reported Friday that the aircraft might have been headed northwest toward India, over the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal — following a commonly used navigational route, suggesting that somebody with aviation expertise was flying the aircraft.

In the first days after the Boeing 777 and its 239 passengers and crew disappeared, investigators were looking at the possibility of a hijacking or sabotage, focusing on two passengers traveling on stolen passports. Those passengers have since been identified as two young Iranian men, who authorities have said have no links to terror groups and appeared to be seeking entry to Europe in order to work.

Malaysian officials, speaking at a press conference Friday, acknowledged that the disconnection of the transponder could indicate there had been a hijacking.

“It could have been done intentionally. It could have been done under duress. It could have happened as a result of an explosion,” said Hishamuddin Hussein, Malaysia acting transportation minister.

The Malaysians said that they would expand their search toward India on the possibility that the airplane had been diverted there, but that they would also continue their search closer to the original flight path in the South China Seas.

“This is not a formal investigation that becomes narrower with time. The new information forces us to look further afield,” said Hishamuddin.

AFP Photo/Chaideer Mahyuddin

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