RI deploy warships as search expands to Malacca Strait
Bagus BT Saragih
The Jakarta Post
The Indonesian Navy has deployed four warships and one patrol aircraft to the Malacca Strait to assist in the search of the missing Malaysia Airlines aircraft, despite being far to the west from the location where contact with the aircraft was lost over the South China Sea, off the southern coast of Vietnam.
But Navy spokesman Commodore Untung Surapati said on Sunday that a search of the Malacca Strait had been requested by the Malaysian military.
'Indonesian Military [TNI] commander [Gen. Moeldoko] was in contact with his Malaysian counterpart this morning [Sunday]. Based on the coordination, we will help with the search operation in the Malacca Strait,' Untung told The Jakarta Post.
The Malaysian Armed Forces (ATM) had asked the TNI to search an area 80 to 100 nautical miles northwest of Penang Island, he said.
Untung added that the Indonesian Navy has dispatched one corvette, which was on patrol in the strait, and four rapid patrol vessels, which were stationed in Belawan, Medan, North Sumatra. 'We have also deployed out CASA C-212 maritime patrol aircraft from Tanjung Pinang, Riau Islands,' he said.
He refused to speculate on why the Malaysian authorities had asked for a search to be carried out in an area far from the South Vietnamese waters where the Boeing B777-200 was believed to have gone missing.
'In the case of an emergency, you never know. The plane could have drifted far to the north of its actual flight path, or even west. But according to the request from the Malaysian military, they suggested that some radar detections were recorded over the Malacca Strait,' he said.
Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which was carrying a total 239 passengers and crew, left Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Saturday at 12:41 a.m. Beijing time, and was expected to land in Beijing at 6:30 a.m.
Contact with the flight was lost at 1:20 a.m. on Saturday when it was flying over the Ho Chi Minh air traffic control area in Vietnam.
Malaysian authorities are currently trying to determine the identities of at least two of the passengers on the missing aircraft, in addition to two others who, it has been established, were traveling on stolen passports, a security official said.
This has led to speculation that terrorism may have been behind the disappearance. (nvn)
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