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Malaysian military: Missing jet changed course

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Over a dozen microphones are propped on a table as Malaysian police chief Khalid Abu Bakar answers questions from members of the media, raising their hands waiting their turn as seen in the shadows cast on stage during a press conference, Tuesday, March 11, 2014 in Sepang, Malaysia. One of the two men traveling on a missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner with a stolen passport was a 19-year-old Iranian man believed to be trying to migrate to Germany, and had no terror links, police said Tuesday. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

Over a dozen microphones are propped on a table as Malaysian police chief Khalid Abu Bakar answers questions from members of the media, raising their hands waiting their turn as seen in the shadows cast on stage during a press conference, Tuesday, March 11, 2014 in Sepang, Malaysia. One of the two men traveling on a missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner with a stolen passport was a 19-year-old Iranian man believed to be trying to migrate to Germany, and had no terror links, police said Tuesday. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

Relatives of Chinese passengers aboard missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 watch a TV news program about the missing flight as they wait for official updates from Malaysia Airlines at a hotel ballroom in Beijing, China, Tuesday, March 11, 2014. Nearly three days after the Boeing 777 with 239 people on board disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, no debris has been seen in Southeast Asian waters. (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)

This combination of images released by Interpol and displayed by Malaysian police during a news conference in Sepang, Malaysia, on Tuesday, March 11, 2014, shows an Iranian identified by Interpol as Pouria Nour Mohammad Mehrdad, who Malaysian authorities say is 19, although Interpol’s information indicated an age of 18, left, and 29-year-old Iranian Delavar Seyedmohammaderza. The men boarded the now missing Malaysia Airlines jet MH370 with stolen passports. (AP Photo/Interpol)

Pictures of the two men, a 19-year old Iranian, identified by Malaysian police as Pouria Nour Mohammad Mehrdad, left, and the man on the right, his identity still not released, who boarded the now missing Malaysia Airlines jet MH370 with stolen passports, is held up by a Malaysian policewoman during a press conference, Tuesday, March 11, 2014 in Sepang, Malaysia. One of the two men traveling on a missing Malaysian Airlines jetliner was an Iranian asylum seeker, officials said Tuesday, as baffled authorities expanded their search for the Boeing 777 on the opposite side of the country from where it disappeared nearly four days ago with 239 people on board.(AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

Airport staff move a white board plastered with messages of hope and encouragement to all involved with the missing Malaysia Airlines jet, MH370, at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Tuesday, March 11, 2014, in Sepang, Malaysia. Authorities hunting for the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner expanded their search on land and sea Tuesday, reflecting the difficulties in locating traces of the plane more than three days after it vanished. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — The missing Boeing 777 jetliner changed course over the sea, crossed Malaysia and reached the Strait of Malacca — hundreds of miles from its last position recorded by civilian authorities, Malaysian military officials said Tuesday, citing military radar data.

The development added confusion and mystery into what is emerging as one of most puzzling aviation incidents of recent time, and it has raised questions about why the Malaysia Airlines flight apparently was not transmitting signals detectable by civilian radar or sending distress calls after it turned back.

Many experts have been working on the assumption there was a catastrophic event on the flight — such as an explosion, engine failure, terrorist attack, extreme turbulence, pilot error or even suicide. The director of the CIA said in Washington that he still would not rule out terrorism.

Flight MH370, carrying 239 people, took off from Kuala Lumpur at 12:41 a.m. Saturday, bound for Beijing. Authorities initially said its last contact with ground controllers was less than an hour into the flight at a height of 35,000 feet, when the plane was somewhere between the east coast of Malaysia and Vietnam.

But local newspaper Berita Harian quoted Malaysia’s air force chief, Gen. Rodzali Daud, as saying that radar at a military base had tracked the jet as it changed its course, with the final signal at 2:40 a.m. showing the plane to be near Pulau Perak at the northern approach to the Strait of Malacca, a busy waterway that separates the western coast of Malaysia and Indonesia’s Sumatra island. It was flying slightly lower, at around 29,528 feet, he said.

“After that, the signal from the plane was lost,” he was quoted as saying.

A high-ranking military official involved in the investigation confirmed the report. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to disclose sensitive information.

Authorities had said earlier the plane may have tried to turn back to Kuala Lumpur, but they expressed surprise it would do so without informing ground control.

The search was initially focused hundreds of miles (kilometers) to the east, in waters off Vietnam, with more than 40 planes and ships from at least 10 nations searching the area without finding a trace of the missing aircraft.

Earlier Tuesday, Malaysia Airlines said in a statement that search-and-rescue teams had expanded their scope to the Strait of Malacca. An earlier statement said the western coast of Malaysia was “now the focus,” but the airline subsequently said that phrase was an oversight. It didn’t elaborate.

Civil aviation chief Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said the search remained “on both sides” of Malaysia.

Attention will now likely focus on the condition of the Boeing 777’s electronic systems as it charted its new course back toward and then across Malaysia.

A radar antenna on the ground sends electromagnetic waves that reflect from the surface of an aircraft and almost

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