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India Puts on Hold Search for Missing Plane, Say Officials

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March 16, 2014 3:09 PM EST

India on Sunday put on hold its search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, at the request of the government in Kuala Lumpur, which wants to reassess the week-old hunt for the Boeing 777 that is suspected of being deliberately flown off course.

REUTERS/JUNAIDI HANAFIAH
Members of a rescue team stand on the deck of a Basarnas rescue ship during a search and rescue operation to find the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, in the Andaman Sea, on 15 March, 2014.

India had been combing two areas, one around the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and a second, further west, in the Bay of Bengal. Both operations have been suspended, but may yet resume, defence officials said.

"It's more of a pause," said Commander Babu, a spokesman for the country's Eastern Naval Command.

"The Malaysian authorities are reassessing the situation. They will figure whether they need to shift the area of search."

The fate of the flight, with 239 passengers and crew aboard, has been shrouded in mystery since it vanished off Malaysia's east coast less than an hour into a March 8 flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said on Saturday the plane appeared to have been deliberately steered off course after someone on board shut down its communications systems.

A review of search operations involving more than a dozen countries will be held in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday, Indian officials said.

"The search operation is not over, we are on standby and are awaiting instructions from the Malaysians," said a senior military official in Port Blair, capital of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, an archipelago west of the Malay Peninsula.

(Photo: REUTERS/JUNAIDI HANAFIAH / )
Members of a rescue team stand on the deck of a Basarnas rescue ship during a search and rescue operation to find the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, in the Andaman Sea, on 15 March, 2014.
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