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Malaysia says not sure which way jet was headed

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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) — More than four days after a Malaysian jetliner went missing on route to Beijing, authorities acknowledged Wednesday they didn’t know in which direction the plane and its 239 passengers was heading when it disappeared, vastly complicating efforts to find it.

Amid intensifying confusion and occasionally contradictory statements, the country’s civil aviation authorities and the military both said the plane may have turned back from its original route toward Vietnam, possibly as far as the Strait of Malacca on the eastern side of the country.

How it might have done this without being clearly detected remained a mystery, raising questions over whether its electrical systems were either knocked out or turned off.

Authorities have not ruled out any possible cause, including mechanical failure, pilot error, sabotage or terrorism in the disappearance of the plane. The 777 is a modern aircraft with an excellent safety record, as does Malaysia Airlines.

Authorities began their search for the missing aircraft at the position it was last reported to be at over the sea between Malaysia and Vietnam. But they have also said search operations were ongoing in the Malacca strait. Scores of planes and aircraft have been scouring both locations.

The country’s air force chief, Gen. Rodzali Daud, released a statement denying remarks attributed to him in a local media report saying that military radar had managed to track the aircraft turning back from its original course, crossing the country and making it to the Malacca strait to the west of Malaysia. The Associated Press contacted a high-level military official, who confirmed the remarks.

Rodzali referred to a statement he said he made March 9 in which he said the air force has “not ruled out the possibility of an air turn back” and said search and rescue efforts had been expanded to the waters around Penang Island, in the northern section of the strait.

It is possible that the radar readings are not definitive or subject to interpretation, especially if a plane is malfunctioning.

The country’s civilian aviation chief Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said he could neither confirm nor deny military’s remarks. That suggests disagreement or confusion at the highest level over where the plane is most likely to have ended up.

“There is a possibility of an air turn back. We are still investigating and looking at the radar readings,” he said Wednesday

The strait is a busy shipping lane that separates Malaysian from Indonesia’s Sumatra Island.

Adding to the confusion, Indonesia air force Col. Umar Fathur said the country had received official information from Malaysian authorities that the plane was above the South China Sea, about 10 nautical miles from Kota Bharu, Malaysia, when it turned back toward the strait and then disappeared. That would place its last confirmed position closer to Malaysia than has previously been publicly disclosed.

Fathur said Malaysia authorities have determined four blocks to be searched in the

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