MH370 conspiracy theories: what happened to the missing plane?
Was Flight MH370 captured by aliens? Stolen by Israeli agents? Or did it crash in Ukraine? A round-up of the best conspiracy theories
As Malaysia ends its search for the missing flight MH370 and officially declares the disappearance an accident, it is unlikely that questions surrounding the fate of the Boeing 777 will be laid to rest.
From the moment news broke that MH370 had gone missing, the world's conspiracy theorists have weighed in with explanations of their own for investigators' ongoing failure to find the Malaysia Airways plane.
The susbsequent crash of flight MH17, shot down over eastern Ukraine last summer, added to speculation, while a lack of clarity from Malaysian officials about the earlier mystery allowed rumours to flourish. Relatives of some passengers on board the flight offered a $3m reward for information in the belief that details of the investigation are being withheld from them.
Even the Malaysian opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, accused his country's government of holding back "missing bits of information", giving fuel to the conspiracy theories. He asked how a country with "one of the most sophisticated" radar systems in the world could simply lose track of an aeroplane. Similar doubts have been expressed by the chief executive of Emirates, Tim Clark.
A poll conducted by CNN last year found that one in ten Americans believe that "space aliens, time travellers or beings from another dimension" were involved in the plane's disappearance.
The claim that investigators still can't rule out the possibility that Flight MH370 landed rather than crashed has also reignited the debate: according to the CNN poll, 21 per cent of people believe that at least some people from the flight survived.
The Australian-led search operation is now looking for the plane along the so-called "seventh arc", a remote area of the southern Indian Ocean.
But far away from the scene of the search, on the internet's more excitable fringes, individuals have been working on theories of their own to plug the information gaps. Here are some of the best (and weirdest):
The plane was shot down by the US military
A French former airline director who has been investigating the disappearance of flight MH370 has claimed that the missing plane was shot down by American fighter jets who feared that it had been hijacked and was about to be used to attack the US military base on the Indian Ocean atoll of Diego Garcia.
Marc Dugain, who once ran French airline Proteus, said that he had been warned not to look to closely into the case of MH370 by a British intelligence officer who told him that he was taking "risks", according to France Inter. Dugain had travelled travelled to the Maldives and interviewed witnesses "who reportedly told him they had seen a 'huge plane flying at a really low altitude' towards the island bearing the Malaysia Airlines colours", The Independent reports.
Several months ago, a book called Flight MH370 – The Mystery, suggested that MH370 had been shot down accidentally by US-Thai joint strike fighters in a military exercise in the South China Sea. The book also claims that search and rescue efforts were deliberately sent in the wrong direction as part of a cover-up, the Daily Mail reports.
Life insurance scam
In March last year, Malaysian police refused to rule out the possibility that the entire incident may have been a complicated insurance scam.
"Maybe somebody on the flight has bought a huge sum of insurance, who wants family to gain from it or somebody who has owed somebody so much money, you know, we are looking at all possibilities," said Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar Malaysia's Inspector-General of Police.
Authorities said that they would consider all possible motives, no matter how unlikely they seemed, and would investigate all passengers and crew for any sign of unusual behaviour.
"We are looking very closely at the video footage taken at the KLIA (Kuala Lumpur International Airport)," he added. "We are studying the behavioural pattern of all the passengers."
China and Edward Snowden
Reddit user Dark_Spectre has a theory that links the disappearance of MH370 with Edward Snowden's revelations about the extent of US surveillance.
The theory is based on the fact that the flight was carrying 20 employees of Freescale Semiconductor – a company which may have worked with the NSA to develop surveillance technology, according to Snowden's documents.
Dark_Spectre writes: "We have the American IBM Technical Storage Executive for Malaysia, a man working in mass storage aggregation for the company implicated by the Snowden papers for providing their services to assist the National Security Agency in surveilling the Chinese. And now this bunch of US chip guys working for a global leader in embedded processing solutions (embedded smart phone tech and defence contracting) all together… on a plane… and disappeared. Coincidence?"
The Reddit sleuth suggests that the apparent disappearance of flight MH370 may actually have been the result of an audacious attempt by China to capture a group of private contractors who helped the NSA to conduct spy operations against them. "Honestly, what would 200 lives be to the Chinese intelligence community for the opportunity to find out exactly the depth and scope of our intrusion," Dark_Spectre concludes.
Hijacked by Afghans
The missing Boeing 777 was hijacked and flown to a small village in Afghanistan, according to a Russian newspaper.
A military source reportedly told the Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper: "Flight MH370 Malaysia Airlines missing on March 8 with 239 passengers was hijacked.
"Pilots are not guilty; the plane was hijacked by unknown terrorists. We know that the name of the terrorist who gave instructions to pilots is 'Hitch'. The plane is in Afghanistan not far from Kandahar near the border with Pakistan."
Others have elaborated on the theory, suggesting that passengers have been divided into seven groups and are living in mud huts with almost no food.
MH370 and MH17 were in fact the same plane
One theory that has gained traction over the summer is the suggestion that the airliner that crashed in a field in Ukraine was in fact the lost flight MH370, not the scheduled flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.
According to the theory, proposed by a number of sites, including humansarefree.com, MH370 was hijacked and forced to land safely in an undisclosed location. Some believers say that the plane was taken to the US military base Diego Garcia – believed to be within range of where the MH370 disappeared – and then deliberately crashed near Donetsk by US agents months later in a "false flag" operation designed to discredit Russia.
Subsequent world events have played into the theorists' hands, as a number of countries accused Russia of providing military support to Ukrainian separatists – including Buk missile launchers capable of shooting down planes at high altitudes. The EU and US subsequently tightened their sanctions on Moscow.
To support their argument, some commentators, such as Opob News, point to the fact that wreckage found in Ukraine seems to have a different configuration of windows to the actual MH17, and that a Malaysian flag on the side of the fuselage is not in the right place. Others have suggested that these pictures are fake.
Five per cent of Americans surveyed by Reason.com believe that the plane was abducted by aliens. Some bloggers have pointed to a number of recent UFO sightings in Malaysia as evidence for extraterrestrial intervention. Alexandra Bruce, from Forbidden Knowledge TV, "proves" the involvement of aliens with her analysis of radar data. She claims that footage posted on YouTube shows the presence of something that "can only be termed a UFO" in the skies over Malaysia. Of course, that means something that is "unidentified" rather than aliens.
A 9/11-style false-flag hijack mission
No conspiracy is complete without Israeli involvement, and MH370 is no exception. According to this theory, Israeli agents planned to crash the Malaysia Airways plane into a building, as in the September 11 attacks, and then blame the atrocity on Iran. Proponents point to the quick identification of two Iranian nationals travelling on forged passports, and claims that CCTV images released of the pair had been doctored. More extravagantly, some have claimed that a Malaysia Airways Boeing 777 identical to the one that went missing "had been stored in a hangar in Tel Aviv since November 2013".
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