News on the go: March 17, 2014

Elaina Sauber

The last words from the missing Malaysian plane’s cockpit gave no sign of anything amiss even though one of the plane’s communications systems was already disabled, adding to suspicions that one or both of the pilots were involved in the disappearance. As authorities examined a flight simulator taken from the home of one of the pilots and dug through the background of all 239 people on board and the ground crew that serviced the plane, they also were struggling with the enormity of the search ahead of them, warning they needed more information to narrow down the hunt for the plane. (Read full story here.)

Residents of Ukraine’s Crimea region voted in support of splitting off and seeking annexation by Russia. Crimea is predominantly ethnic Russian, and its residents say they fear the government that took over when pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted last month will oppress them.

Egypt has jailed 16,000 Islamists over the past eight months in the country’s biggest round-up in nearly two decades, according to previously unreleased figures from security officials. Rights activists say reports of abuses in prisons are increasing, with prisoners describing beatings and inhumane conditions for dozens packed into small cells. The flood of arrests has overwhelmed prisons and the legal system and many detainees are held for months without charges. (Read full story here.)

Rebel fighters in Syria fled into neighboring Lebanon as government troops and Hezbollah fighters capture the opposition’s last stronghold on an essential supply route. The fall of Yabroud, an opposition-held town since the beginning of the 3-year-old conflict, was a significant victory for President Bashar Assad’s forces against rebels attempting to overthrow his government.

Information is from the Associated Press.