After 6 days, Malaysian jet mystery still unsolved

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An Indonesian Air Force officer draws a flight pattern flown earlier in a search operation for the missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777, during a post-mission briefing at Suwondo air base in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia, Thursday, March 13, 2014. The hunt for the missing jetliner has been punctuated by false leads since it disappeared with 239 people aboard about an hour after leaving Kuala Lumpur for Beijing early Saturday. (AP Photo/Binsar Bakkara)

An Indonesian Air Force officer draws a flight pattern flown earlier in a search operation for the missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777, during a post-mission briefing at Suwondo air base in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia, Thursday, March 13, 2014. The hunt for the missing jetliner has been punctuated by false leads since it disappeared with 239 people aboard about an hour after leaving Kuala Lumpur for Beijing early Saturday. (AP Photo/Binsar Bakkara)

Children read messages and well wishes displayed for all involved with the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner MH370 on the walls of the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Thursday, March 13, 2014 in Sepang, Malaysia. Planes sent Thursday to check the spot where Chinese satellite images showed possible debris from the missing Malaysian jetliner found nothing, Malaysia’s civil aviation chief said, deflating the latest lead in the six-day hunt. The hunt for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370 has been punctuated by false leads since it disappeared with 239 people aboard about an hour after leaving Kuala Lumpur for Beijing early Saturday. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

Boys join in prayers at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport for the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner MH370, Thursday, March 13, 2014, in Sepang, Malaysia. Planes sent Thursday to check the spot where Chinese satellite images showed possible debris from the missing Malaysian jetliner found nothing, Malaysia’s civil aviation chief said, deflating the latest lead in the six-day hunt. The hunt for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370 has been punctuated by false leads since it disappeared with 239 people aboard about an hour after leaving Kuala Lumpur for Beijing early Saturday. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

Muslim women offer prayers at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport for the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner MH370, Thursday, March 13, 2014 in Sepang, Malaysia. Planes sent Thursday to check the spot where Chinese satellite images showed possible debris from the missing Malaysian jetliner found nothing, Malaysia’s civil aviation chief said, deflating the latest lead in the six-day hunt. The hunt for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370 has been punctuated by false leads since it disappeared with 239 people aboard about an hour after leaving Kuala Lumpur for Beijing early Saturday. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

Candles are lit next to messages as students express hope and solidarity for the passengers aboard the missing Malaysian Airlines plane Thursday, March 13, 2014 in Manila, Philippines. Planes sent Thursday to check the spot where Chinese satellite images showed possible debris from the missing Malaysian jetliner found nothing, Malaysia’s civil aviation chief said, deflating the latest lead in the six-day hunt. The hunt for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370 has been punctuated by false leads since it disappeared with 239 people aboard about an hour after leaving Kuala Lumpur for Beijing early Saturday. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — An oil slick on the sea. A purported wrong turn to the west seen on military radar. Questionable satellite photos. Passengers boarding with stolen passports.

After six days, what seemed like potential clues to the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 have all led nowhere.

“This situation is unprecedented. MH370 went completely silent over the open ocean,” said acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein. “This is a crisis situation. It is a very complex operation, and it is not obviously easy. We are devoting all our energies to the task at hand.”

On Thursday, Malaysian authorities expanded their search westward toward India, saying the aircraft with 239 people aboard may have flown for several hours after its last contact with the ground shortly after takeoff early Saturday from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing.

The U.S. Navy 7th Fleet said it is moving one of its ships, the USS Kidd, into the Strait of Malacca, west of Malaysia.

The international search is methodically sweeping the ocean on both sides of Malaysia. The total area being covered is about 35,800 square miles (92,600 square kilometers) — about the size of Portugal.

One part of the hunt is in the South China Sea, where the aircraft was seen on civilian radar flying northeast before vanishing without any indication of technical problems. A similar-sized search is also being conducted in the Strait of Malacca because of military radar sightings that might indicate the plane turned in that direction after its last contact, passing over the Malay Peninsula.

The jet had enough fuel to reach deep into the Indian Ocean.

“Because of new information, we may be part of an effort to open a new search area in the Indian Ocean,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said, declining to offer additional details about that information or the new area.

In the latest disappointment, search planes failed to find any debris from the Boeing 777 after they were sent Thursday to an area of the South China Sea off the southern tip of Vietnam where satellite images published on a Chinese government website reportedly showed three suspected floating objects.

“There is nothing. We went there. There is nothing,” Hishammuddin said.

Compounding the frustration, he later said the Chinese Embassy had notified the government the images were released by mistake and did not show any debris from the missing flight.

The Wall Street Journal quoted U.S. investigators as saying they suspected the plane stayed in the air for about four hours after its last confirmed contact, citing engine data automatically transmitted to the ground as part of a routine maintenance program. The newspaper later corrected the account to say the information came from the plane’s satellite communication

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