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Search of Missing Malaysian Plane Expands to Indian Ocean

Malaysian authorities say unspecified "circumstances" forced the search of a missing jetliner to expand into the Indian Ocean, thousands of kilometers away from where the Boeing 777 vanished from civilian radar last week.

Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein spoke to reporters Friday, offering no new evidence on the location of a missing jetliner. He refused to comment on reports the plane kept sending automated electronic messages to communications satellites, hours after it vanished Saturday en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur.

On Thursday, U.S. officials briefed on the investigation said the satellites picked up faint messages, known as pings, which tried to relay regular maintenance and other data about the plane's condition.

It is not clear whether the messages can provide information on the plane's location. It is also not clear whether the plane was in the air at the time the messages were sent.

Hishammuddin said Malaysia is working with the U.S. to get any satellite information on the missing plane, but that it would be inappropriate "to publicly release information until it has been verified and corroborated."

He said 57 ships and 48 planes from 13 countries are now involved in the search for the plane.

The initial search focused on the Gulf of Thailand, where the airliner was last spotted by civilian radar. The Malaysian military has since said it may have tracked the plane hundreds of kilometers away, across the Malaysian peninsula in the Strait of Malacca.

Many of the family members of those on the plane are growing frustrated with what they feel is incomplete information from Malaysian authorities. A man who identified himself as Mr. Gao spoke with media Friday after meeting Malaysian officials in Beijing.

"Their (Malaysian) spokespeople should be responsible for what they are saying and keep their promises, instead of giving us the impression that it is a rogue state and that it just makes irresponsible remarks without thinking."

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

The plane's disappearance has become one of the most puzzling cases in modern aviation history. Authorities have ruled nothing out, including a massive technical failure, hijacking, an explosion, or the possibility that the pilot wanted to commit suicide.

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