In a brief address to the media Saturday afternoon, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak sought to bring clarity to the week-long international search for Flight MH370, which went missing last Saturday with 239 people on board.
The Malaysian leader told the media that the plane's movements since its last known radar contact at 8:11 a.m. Malaysia time (9:11 p.m. EST) pointed to a deliberate deviation off course and added that the teams investigating the disappearance of the Boeing 777 are trying to refine this information further to ascertain the distance that the plane flew since that time.
The plane's "movements are consistent with deliberate action by someone on the plane," Razak said, adding that authorities are "still investigating all possibilities as to what caused Flight MH370 to deviate from its flight path." Earlier, media reports, citing local officials, had suggested that the plane may have been hijacked by people with knowledge of aviation.
Razak also stated that the Malaysian government has asked governments of the foreign nationals travelling on the missing plane to provide a complete profile of the passengers because data suggested "with a high degree of certainty" that the onboard communication system and transponder were disabled while the plane was in flight.
He also announced that, based on the latest data available, the search would be diverted from the South China Sea to account for the possibility that the plane may have flown along "one of two possible corridors" after going off its pre-planned flight path.
One corridor -- the northern one -- expanded all the way from northern Thailand to Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan while the second -- the southern one-- stretched from Indonesia to the southern Indian Ocean, Razak told the media.
He added that, in light of the new information, Malaysia would contact all foreign governments along these potential flight paths that MH370 may have taken to brief them on the search efforts and seek any information that could lead to the whereabouts of the missing plane.
The prime minister, who was briefed by Malaysian authorities, and the FAA and NTSB, cited fresh satellite data and radar data from the Royal Malaysian Air Force to confirm that Flight MH370 "did indeed turn back" from near the border between Malaysian and Vietnamese air-traffic control, where the aircraft’s transponder is believed to have been switched off.
"The search for Flight 370 has entered a new phase. Over the last seven days we have followed every lead and looked into every possibility. We hope the new information will bring us one step closer to finding the plane," Razak said, before concluding the press conference.