A Malaysian government official said investigators have concluded that one of the pilots or someone else with flying experience hijacked the missing Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight MH370.
The Associated Press quoted the unnamed official who is involved in the investigation as saying that the hijacking was no longer a theory.
“It is conclusive,” he said.
AFP meanwhile quoted a senior Malaysian military official as saying that investigators believed the jet had been commandeered by a "skilled, competent" flyer who piloted the jet for hours.
"It has to be a skilled, competent and a current pilot," the official said.
"He knew how to avoid the civilian radar. He appears to have studied how to avoid it."
However, British daily The Telegraph reported that director-general of the Department of Civil Aviation, Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, has denied the plane was hijacked.
"It is not conclusive. I'm heading the investigation and nobody is saying that. It's not true. We are looking at the possibility, we're looking at all possibilities. We're doing every profile of the passengers and crew but there is no firm evidence or leads so far," he told the Telegraph.
The startling new development comes after a week of a massive search and rescue operation for the plane, which was carrying 239 people when it left Kuala Lumpur International Airport for a flight to Beijing.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg reported that the missing airliner has been traced to the Indian Ocean off Australia, citing a person familiar with the analysis.
The report said a path from Malaysia to the ocean off Australia would have taken as much as 3,000 miles – the maximum distance MH370 could have flown with its fuel load.
Bloomberg also reports that investigators have found that someone in the cockpit of MH370 programmed the plane to turn away from its original path to Beijing, citing another person from the US government who is familiar with the investigation.
The report quoted spokesman for Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority, Peter Gibson, as saying he was not aware of the new information putting MH370 near Perth. However, he added that the Australian Maritime Safety Authority would have jurisdiction of the search if the information were true.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is expected to address a press conference on this latest development at 1.30pm. Reporters as well as anxious family members and relatives of passengers are waiting at The Everly Putrajaya hotel. – March 15, 2014.