Focus turns to pilots as hunt for jet widens

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A woman reads messages and well wishes to people involved with the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner MH370, Saturday, March 15, 2014 in Sepang, Malaysia. A Malaysian passenger jet missing for more than a week had its communications deliberately disabled and its last signal came about seven and a half hours after takeoff, meaning it could have ended up as far as Kazakhstan or deep in the southern Indian Ocean, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak said Saturday. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

A woman reads messages and well wishes to people involved with the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner MH370, Saturday, March 15, 2014 in Sepang, Malaysia. A Malaysian passenger jet missing for more than a week had its communications deliberately disabled and its last signal came about seven and a half hours after takeoff, meaning it could have ended up as far as Kazakhstan or deep in the southern Indian Ocean, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak said Saturday. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, center, Malaysia’s Minister for Transport Hishamuddin Hussein, left, and director general of the Malaysian Department of Civil Aviation, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, delivers a statement to the media regarding the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner MH370, Saturday, March 15, 2014 in Sepang, Malaysia. Najib said Saturday that investigators believe the missing Malaysian airliner’s communications were deliberately disabled, that it turned back from its flight to Beijing and flew for more than seven hours. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

A police car comes out of a main gate of the missing Malaysia Airlines pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah’s house in Shah Alam, outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Saturday, March 15, 2014. Malaysian police have already said they are looking at the psychological state, the family life and connections of pilot Zaharie, 53, and co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27. Both have been described as respectable, community-minded men. The Malaysian jetliner missing for more than a week had its communications deliberately disabled and its last signal came about 7 1/2 hours after takeoff, meaning it could have ended up as far as Kazakhstan or into the southern reaches of the Indian Ocean, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said Saturday. (AP Photo) MALAYSIA OUT

A Muslim man walks past the missing Malaysia Airlines co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid’s house after a prayer in Shah Alam, outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Saturday, March 15, 2014. Malaysian police have already said they are looking at the psychological state, the family life and connections of pilot Zaharie, 53, and co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27. Both have been described as respectable, community-minded men. The Malaysian jetliner missing for more than a week had its communications deliberately disabled and its last signal came about 7 1/2 hours after takeoff, meaning it could have ended up as far as Kazakhstan or into the southern reaches of the Indian Ocean, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said Saturday. (AP Photo/Lai Seng Sin)

A foam plane with messages and other cards with personalized messages dedicated to people involved with the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner MH370, is placed at the viewing gallery at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Saturday, March 15, 2014 in Sepang, Malaysia. The Malaysian passenger jet missing for more than a week had its communications deliberately disabled and its last signal came about seven and a half hours after takeoff, meaning it could have ended up as far as Kazakhstan or deep in the southern Indian Ocean, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said Saturday. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Attention focused Sunday on the pilots of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight after the country’s leader announced findings so far that suggest someone with intimate knowledge of the Boeing 777’s cockpit seized control of the plane and sent it off-course.

Prime Minister Najib Razak gave the first detailed findings Saturday in the more than weeklong investigation into the missing plane, showing that someone severed communications with the ground and deliberately diverted Flight 307 after it departed Kuala Lumpur for Beijing on March 8 on an overnight flight with a 12-person crew and 227 passengers.

Satellite data suggest it flew for at least 7 ½ hours and that it could have reached as northwest as Kazakhstan or deep into the southern Indian Ocean, Najib said. “Clearly the search for MH370 has entered a new phase,” Najib said at a televised news conference. “It is widely understood that this has been a situation without precedent.”

Experts say that whoever disabled the plane’s communication systems and then flew the jet must have had a high degree of technical knowledge and flying experience. One possibility they have raised was that one of the pilots wanted to divert the plane for some reason — possibly even to commit suicide. Piracy and hijacking also have been cited as possible explanations.

Najib stressed that investigators were looking into all possibilities.

“In view of this latest development, the Malaysian authorities have refocused their investigation into the crew and passengers on board,” Najib told reporters, reading from a written statement but not taking any questions.

Police on Saturday went to the Kuala Lumpur homes of both the pilot and co-pilot of the missing plane, according to a guard and several local reporters. Malaysian police have said they are looking at the psychological state, family life and connections of pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53, and co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27. They released no details on their investigation so far.

Zaharie, who joined Malaysia Airlines in 1981 and had more than 18,000 hours of flying experience, was known as an avid aviation enthusiast who had set up an elaborate flight simulator at home.

Fariq was contemplating marriage after having just graduated to the cockpit of a Boeing 777. He has drawn scrutiny after the revelation that he and another pilot invited two female passengers to sit in the cockpit during a flight in 2011.

Two-thirds of the plane’s passengers were Chinese, and China’s government has been under pressure to

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