UK & World News

  • 28 March 2014, 1:57

Missing Malaysia Plane Pilot 'Not Extremist'

A friend of the missing Malaysia Airlines pilot has told Sky News he was a "professional" and would not do anything "extreme".

Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53, was at the controls of the passenger jet when it disappeared on March 8.

And in the absence of any information over what caused the aircraft to vanish, there has been speculation Mr Zaharie may be have been responsible, either for political or terrorism motives, or even to commit suicide for family reasons.

This has been fuelled after investigators revealed MH370's tracking devices were deliberately switched off during the flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

The FBI has been examining data from a flight simulator removed from his home, following a request of the Malaysians who wanted help to recover files deleted from the hard drive.

But Mr Zaharie's friend Nasir Othman has dismissed any link between the captain's personal life and the disappearance of the flight, which is thought to have crashed in the southern Indian Ocean after straying thousands of miles off course.

Mr Nasir said: "I can say he's a moderate Muslim who performs his daily rituals, but to say he's on the extreme, I don't think so."

Attention has also focused on Mr Zaharie's membership of an opposition party headed by veteran politician Anwar Ibrahim, who was convicted of sodomy - a crime in Malaysia - hours before the aircraft took off.

But Mr Nasir said: "Everybody has their own personal political beliefs. That doesn't mean he would go to an extreme extent.

"He's a professional. I don't think he would do that."

Mr Zaharie's son Ahmad Seth has also publicly rejected reports his father was a political fanatic. 

In his first interview since the plane went missing the 26-year-old told Malaysian English-language newspaper, the New Straits Times his father was not a hijacker.

He said: "I've read everything online, but I've ignored all the speculation.

"We may not be as close as he travels so much, but I understand him."

Mr Zaharie has more than 18,000 hours flying experience, and joined Malaysia Airlines in 1981.

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