Missing jet relatives dragged from news conference

After 12 frustrating days of waiting for news of loved ones on the missing Malaysia Airlines plane, at least two relatives of passengers aboard Flight MH370 were forcibly removed Wednesday from a news conference at a hotel near Kuala Lumpur.

Dramatic footage broadcast by the BBC showed a woman thought to be a Chinese relative of a missing passenger being knocked to the ground and then dragged away from journalists ahead of the daily news briefing by Malaysian officials.

The pair appeared to be trying to unfurl a banner expressing their dissatisfaction over the lack of progress in the investigation that has dragged on for days. Police escorted them out.

Of the 239 people aboard the plane that went missing March 8 on a night flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, more than 150 were Chinese nationals. Malaysian authorities have been especially sensitive to any criticism of the investigation.

The disturbance comes as Malaysia's Defense Minister and Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said Wednesday that files were recently deleted from the home flight simulator belonging to the pilot aboard the missing Malaysian jetliner.

"Forensic efforts are on to retrieve the data," Hishammuddin said. He also said that the pilot, Capt. Zaharie Ahmad Shah, is innocent until proven guilty of any wrongdoing and that members of Zaharie's family are cooperating in the investigation.

Malaysian Police Chief Khalid Abu said the files containing records of the simulations were deleted on Feb. 3.

Police are continuing to consider a number of different scenarios that would explain the plane's disappearance including the possibility of hijacking, sabotage, terrorism or issues related to the mental health of the pilots or anyone else on board, and have asked for background checks from foreign agencies on all foreign passengers.

Hishammuddin said background checks have been received for all the foreigners except those from Ukraine and Russia. Those two countries had three passengers on the flight. He said none of the checks have turned up anything suspicious.

Still, the theories about what happened to the Boeing 777 plane, and where it or its wreckage may now be located, have stacked up even as investigators have been able to offer relatives few concrete facts about how it vanished, and as authorities from 26 countries have expanded the search-and-rescue mission to an unprecedentedly large area stretching from central Asia to the southern Indian Ocean.

In a brief statement addressing the scenes outside the news conference Wednesday, Hishammuddin said: "One can only imagine the anguish they (relatives) are going through. Malaysia is doing everything in its power to find MH370 and hopefully bring some degree of closure for those whose family members are missing."

But the resentment is building.

"It's really too much. I don't know why it is taking so long for so many people to find the plane," Subaramaniam Gurusamy, 60, said in an interview with the Associated Press from his home on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. His 34-year-old son, Pushpanathan Subramaniam, was on the flight heading to Beijing for a work trip.

"He's the one son I have," Subaramaniam said.


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