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Malaysia Military Denies Tracking Missing Jetliner Far from Intended Path

The Malaysian military is backing away from reports that it tracked a missing passenger jet far away from its intended flight path, casting further doubt on the whereabouts of the plane and its 239 people on board.

In a statement Wednesday, Air Force chief Rodzali Daud said he could not rule out that the Malaysia Airlines jetliner veered drastically off course. But he said a media report that claimed the military tracked the jet over the Strait of Malacca was "clearly an inaccurate and incorrect report."

The Strait of Malacca is off the west coast of the Malaysia peninsula and is hundreds of kilometers from where civilian air traffic controllers lost contact with the Boeing 777. The initial search for the plane had focused mainly on the South China Sea, which lies off the east coast.

If the plane did make it to the Strait of Malacca, it would call into question theories that the jet experienced some sort of sudden catastrophic event shortly after takeoff that prevented pilots from communicating with authorities.

The plane disappeared from civilian radar without any distress calls about an hour after leaving Kuala Lumpur en route to Beijing early Saturday, when weather conditions appeared to be clear.



As the search entered the fifth day, many relatives of those on the plane are growing frustrated with a lack of answers and sometimes contradictory information from the Malaysian government.

After meeting with Malaysian government representatives Wednesday in Beijing, one family member, who identified herself as Ms. Li, said she does not feel sufficiently informed.



"I'm not very satisfied (with the meeting). There are many things that have still not been clearly explained and they still haven't met our requests."



China's government also said Wednesday that the conflicting information on the plane's course was "pretty chaotic."

Meanwhile, new allegations arose concerning past behavior of one of the plane's pilots. A South African woman, Jonti Roos, told Australia's Channel Nine TV the plane's first officer, Fariq Abdul Hamid, invited her and another woman into the cockpit on a flight two years ago.

Roos shared several pictures that appear to show her posing with Fariq and his co-pilot. She said the men talked and flirted with her for the entire flight from Thailand to Kuala Lumpur in December 2011.

In a statement, Malaysia Airlines said it was "shocked" by the allegations, which it said it takes "very seriously." The airline said it has not been able to confirm the validity of the pictures.

Malaysian officials have been exploring scenarios of what may have brought down the jet, including an explosion, hijackers, pilot error or mechanical failure.

At the Kuala Lumpur International Airport where the plane took off, many passengers were jittery. One passenger, Johan, said he is more concerned for the families of those on board the missing jet.



"I think the family members need to be strong with regard, you know, while waiting, although it's a very long wait, but they have to be strong and hope for the best because we still have no clues even at this point."



Aerospace expert Wayne Plucker tells VOA he believes the Boeing 777 jet eventually will be found but that it might take some time.



"This may be a while. Remember that the Air France plane that went down off of Brazil (in 2009), it took quite awhile even though there was apparent wreckage on the surface. "



Plucker said the Boeing 777 has had a good safety record.



"There's nothing that points a finger at a problem. Malaysian Airlines has a good history of maintenance."



About two-thirds of the people on board were Chinese nationals, with the remainder from other Asian countries, Europe and North America.

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