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India denies Malaysian jet '9/11-style attack' theory
Publish Date: Mar 17, 2014
India denies Malaysian jet '9/11-style attack' theory
A Malaysian man gestures as he stands in front of messages expressing prayers and well-wishes for passengers onboard missing Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight MH370 at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang on March 17, 2014. An investigation into the pilots of missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370 intensified on March 17 after officials confirmed that the last words spoken from the cockpit came after a key signalling system was manually disabled. AFP PHOTO/ MANAN VATSYAYANA
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NEW DELHI - India rejected suggestions Monday that it could have been the intended target of a 9/11-style attack by the missing Malaysia Airlines jet.

As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh promised maximum assistance in the massive hunt for Flight 370, India's foreign minister said it was vital that the mystery over its fate was cleared up.

But asked by the CNN-IBN network about suggestions that the plane was hijacked with the aim of flying it into an Indian city, Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid replied: "I don't think we have gone that far."

The speculation was fuelled by former US deputy secretary of state Strobe Talbott who tweeted that the "direction, fuel load & range now lead some to suspect hijackers planned a 9/11-type attack on an Indian city".

His comments over the weekend have been widely picked up by the Indian media and Khurshid said people needed answers to allay their fears.

"We hope to come to some conclusion that is both credible and reassuring," he said.

The Times of India said security sources had "rubbished" the idea that the plane could have got anywhere close to an urban centre and insisted it would have been detected by a naval base on the Andaman islands, more than 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) off the Indian mainland.

"There is no way our military radars would have missed the airliner as it flew over Andaman Sea, as there is high traffic around that time," one military intelligence source told the paper.

The US-led NATO mission in Afghanistan meanwhile said it was not looking for the missing plane there, and Islamabad's Civil Aviation Authority said the flight never appeared on Pakistani radar.

Indian ships and planes scoured the seas off the sprawling Andamans archipelago last week but they suspended their search on Sunday as they awaited fresh instructions from Malaysian authorities.

"Operations are suspended as of now, everything is grounded," Indian Navy spokesman D.K. Sharma told AFP on Monday.

"Malaysian authorities will now decide and tell us where to go. They have asked us to be on standby for now.

"We are awaiting further instructions. Once we have them, we will move."

Prime Minister Singh's office said that his Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak, in a phone call late Sunday, had requested "technical assistance from Indian authorities in corroborating the possible paths that the missing Malaysian airliner might have taken".

Singh "assured all possible assistance from concerned Indian authorities", the office said in a statement.

AFP

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