KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak said Saturday that communications on a Malaysia Airlines flight missing since last Saturday were disabled due to "deliberate action by someone on the plane" and that the last known signal from the airliner came more than seven hours after takeoff.
Speaking at a news conference in Kuala Lumpur, Prime Minister Razak said investigators were making calculations to try to determine exactly how far the airliner traveled after its last point of contact.
According to new satellite data analyzed by the FAA, NTSB, AAIB and Malaysian authorities, the plane's communications from the Aircraft and Communications Addressing and Reporting System were cut off just before the aircraft reached the east coast of the peninsula of Malaysia, and the aircraft's transponder was turned off shortly thereafter, near the border of Malaysia and Vietnam, he said.
Flight MH370 departed from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing at 12:40 a.m. on March 8 with 239 people on board. A multi-national search effort involving 14 countries, 43 ships and 58 aircraft has turned up no trace of the Boeing 777, despite an expansive search that has widened with each passing day.
The last confirmed communication from the plane to a satellite was 8:11 a.m. Malaysia time, Razak said.
The prime minister said the search for flight has entered a "new phase," focusing on two possible corridors -- a northern corridor from the border of Kazakstan and Turkmenistan to northern Thailand, and a southern corridor from Indonesia to the southern Indian Ocean.
The prime minister also confirmed reports that circulated earlier this week that the plane veered off its course toward Beijing, turning back westward and crossing over peninsular Malaysia into the northern stretches of the Strait of Malacca.
Razak announced that search operations were ending in the South China Sea and investigators are refocusing their attention on the pilots and passengers on board Flight MH370. He added that Malaysia was "working with the relevant countries to request all information relevant to the search, including radar data."
Razak would not confirm a hijacking.
"Despite media reports that the plane was hijacked, I wish to be very clear: We are still investigating all possibilities as to what caused MH370 to deviate from its original flight path," he said.
Razak also defended Malaysia's handling of the investigation, saying that they have followed up each and every lead.
According to a report by Reuters, authorities searched the home of the pilot shortly after the prime minister's statement.
"For the families and friends of those involved, we hope this new information brings us one step closer to finding the plane," Razak said.
On Friday, Indian ships and planes expanded their search to areas west of the Andaman and Nicobar islands chain, hundreds of miles from the intended course of Flight MH370, said V.S.R. Murty, an Indian Coast Guard inspector-general.
Much of the early search has focused east of Malaysia in the South China Sea, where the aircraft last communicated with air-traffic base stations about an hour after departing for Beijing.
Three days ago, six Indian navy and coast guard ships, plus reconnaissance planes, began searching eastern parts of the Andaman Sea. Friday, they headed west of the Andaman and Nicobar islands near the Bay of Bengal.
There are more than 500 islands in that chain, many of which are richly forested and uninhabited.