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Malaysian helicopter goes missing with six aboard: reports

[KUALA LUMPUR] A helicopter believed to be carrying six people including a Malaysian deputy minister and a parliament member went missing on Thursday over the Borneo island state of Sarawak, reports said.

Contact with the aircraft was lost around 5 pm during a short flight from the state's interior to its capital Kuching, Department of Civil Aviation chief Azharuddin Abdul Rahman was quoted as saying by Malaysian media.

He added that authorities had launched a search and rescue mission in the rugged, sparsely populated state.

The Star newspaper's website reported that Plantation Industries and Commodities Deputy Minister Noriah Kasnon and parliament member Wan Mohammad Khairil Anuar Wan Ahmad were believed to be among those aboard.

The purpose of their travel was not immediately clear, but much of the country's political attention has been focused for weeks on election campaigning in Sarawak, which holds state polls on Saturday.

The elections are being closely scrutinised for signs of a voter backlash against the national ruling coalition headed by Prime Minister Najib Razak, who has taken a battering over the past year due to allegations of massive corruption.

Parties in the ruling coalition, however, have long held firm control of resource-rich Sarawak and are widely expected to comfortably retain it.