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Malaysia not sure which way lost jet was headed

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Chinese relatives of passengers aboard a missing Malaysia Airlines plane wait for the latest news inside a hotel room set aside for relatives or friends of passengers aboard the missing airplane in Beijing, China Wednesday, March 12, 2014. The missing Malaysian jetliner may have attempted to turn back before it vanished from radar, but there is no evidence it reached the Strait of Malacca, Malaysia’s air force chief said Wednesday, denying reported remarks he said otherwise. The statement suggested continued confusion over where the Boeing 777 might have ended up, more than four days after it disappeared en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur with 239 people on board. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Chinese relatives of passengers aboard a missing Malaysia Airlines plane wait for the latest news inside a hotel room set aside for relatives or friends of passengers aboard the missing airplane in Beijing, China Wednesday, March 12, 2014. The missing Malaysian jetliner may have attempted to turn back before it vanished from radar, but there is no evidence it reached the Strait of Malacca, Malaysia’s air force chief said Wednesday, denying reported remarks he said otherwise. The statement suggested continued confusion over where the Boeing 777 might have ended up, more than four days after it disappeared en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur with 239 people on board. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Chinese relatives of passengers aboard a missing Malaysia Airlines plane walk out from a hotel room after meeting with Malaysian officials, in Beijing, China Wednesday, March 12, 2014. The missing Malaysian jetliner may have attempted to turn back before it vanished from radar, but there is no evidence it reached the Strait of Malacca, Malaysia’s air force chief said Wednesday, denying reported remarks he said otherwise. The statement suggested continued confusion over where the Boeing 777 might have ended up, more than four days after it disappeared en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur with 239 people on board. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Ground staff work on a Malaysia Airlines plane at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Malaysia, Wednesday, March 12, 2014. The missing Malaysian jetliner may have attempted to turn back before it vanished from radar, but there is no evidence it reached the Strait of Malacca, Malaysia’s air force chief said Wednesday, denying reported remarks he said otherwise. The statement suggested continued confusion over where the Boeing 777 might have ended up, more than four days after it disappeared en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur with 239 people on board. (AP Photo/Lai Seng Sin)

A ground staff member walks under a Malaysia Airlines plane at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Malaysia, Wednesday, March 12, 2014. The missing Malaysian jetliner may have attempted to turn back before it vanished from radar, but there is no evidence it reached the Strait of Malacca, Malaysia’s air force chief said Wednesday, denying reported remarks he said otherwise. The statement suggested continued confusion over where the Boeing 777 might have ended up, more than four days after it disappeared en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur with 239 people on board. (AP Photo/Lai Seng Sin)

Chinese relatives of passengers aboard a missing Malaysia Airlines plane leave a hotel room after meeting with Malaysian officials, in Beijing, China Wednesday, March 12, 2014. The missing Malaysian jetliner may have attempted to turn back before it vanished from radar, but there is no evidence it reached the Strait of Malacca, Malaysia’s air force chief said Wednesday, denying reported remarks he said otherwise. The statement suggested continued confusion over where the Boeing 777 might have ended up, more than four days after it disappeared en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur with 239 people on board. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — More than four days after a Malaysian jetliner went missing en route to Beijing, authorities acknowledged Wednesday they didn’t know which direction the plane carrying 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 last known position between Malaysian and Vietnam, possibly as far as the Strait of Malacca, a busy shipping lane on the western side of Malaysia.

How it might have done this without being clearly detected remains a mystery, raising questions over whether its electrical systems, including transponders allowing it to be spotted by radar, were either knocked out or turned off. If it did manage to fly on, it would challenge earlier theories that the plane may have suffered a catastrophic incident, initially thought reasonable because it didn’t send out any distress signals.

Authorities have not ruled out any possible cause, including mechanical failure, pilot error, sabotage or terrorism in the disappearance of the plane. Both the Boeing 777 and Malaysia Airlines have excellent safety records. Until wreckage or debris is found and examined, it will be very hard say with any level of certainty what happened.

The search for the missing aircraft was begun from the spot it was last reported to be over the ocean between Malaysia and Vietnam. But they have also said search operations were ongoing in the Strait of Malacca. Scores of planes and aircraft have been scouring waters in 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

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