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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

India suspends search for missing Malaysia Airlines plane

India on Sunday suspended its search for Malaysia Airlines flight 370 around the remote Andaman and Nicobar Islands and in the Bay of Bengal and is awaiting a new request from Malaysia, a defence official said.

NEW DELHI // India suspended its search for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 around the remote Andaman and Nicobar Islands and in the Bay of Bengal and is awaiting a new request from Malaysia, a defence official said.

“The entire operation is on hold for now. We are awaiting fresh instructions from Malaysia,” said Colonel Harmit Singh, spokesman for India’s army, navy and air force command in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

“None of the planes from our air fleet took off today. Even the navy vessels involved in search operations have moved to another island,” Singh told AFP.

India had been combing two separate areas around the islands in the Andaman Sea and in the Bay of Bengal as part of the international search for the plane that went missing on March 8 carrying 239 people.

In the latest twist in the mysterious disappearance, Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak said Saturday that the plane was apparently deliberately diverted and flown for hours after vanishing from radar.

He stopped short of confirming a hijack but the comments take the excruciating search for the jet into uncharted new territory, as frustrated families of those on board wait for news.

Col Singh said India’s six ships and five aircraft were being diverted to the island of Kamorta in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, where India has a naval base.

A navy source said they were waiting until after a press conference planned by Malaysia for later Sunday, when India was expected to receive instructions about a new search area.

The international search is now focused on two flight corridors — a northern one stretching from northern Thailand to Kazakhstan and a southern zone from Indonesia towards the southern Indian Ocean.

Several analysts favoured a route along the southern corridor over the ocean, saying the northern one would have required the plane to travel undetected through numerous national airspaces in a strategically sensitive region.

* Agence France-Presse