MOGADISHU – A blast that punched a hole in the fuselage of a plane this week was caused by a bomb meant to kill everyone on board, Somalia’s minister for transport and aviation said on Saturday.
One passenger died and two were injured in the explosion on the Airbus A321, operated by Somali company Daallo Airlines. It was forced to make an emergency landing at Mogadishu airport on Tuesday.
United States investigators believe the attack was carried out by Somali Islamist militant group al-Shabaab, but there has been no comment from the organisation.
“We have confirmed that it was a bomb that exploded in the Daallo Airlines flight. It was meant to kill all aboard,” the minister, Ali Ahmed Jamac, told a news conference.
It was confirmed last night that the bomber was Abdullahi Abdisalam Borleh – who they suspect carried a laptop computer onto the aircraft with a bomb concealed.
Officials probing the Daallo Airlines mystery mid-air explosion suspect the man was able to bypass airport security by smuggling the device in his wheelchair before moving to another seat once on board, according to a source speaking to the Wall Street Journal.
Abdisalam Borleh’s body was later recovered from the town of Balad – about 20 miles away from Mogadishu.
Somalia-based terror group Al Shabaab, which has close links to Al Qaeda, are thought to be behind the blast that ripped a hole in the side of a passenger jet on Tuesday on an Airbus A321.
Incredibly, the captain was able to make an emergency landing in the Somali capital of Mogadishu after the horror explosion happened and only two people were injured.
The bomber, engulfed in flames, was said to have been dragged through the gap by the air pressure.
Eyewitnesses on the ground reported seeing a charred body fall to plunge from the sky.
Two US government sources said on Wednesday that initial forensic testing had detected possible traces of the explosive TNT on the aircraft.
There was no immediate comment from Al Shabaab, a Somali Islamist group that has waged an insurgency against the Western-backed Somalia government. It has carried out regular attacks on officials, government offices and civilian sites.
Daallo Airlines, which did not refer to a blast, said on its website that the “incident” that caused a hole in the fuselage happened 15 minutes into the flight.
“Pilots managed to land the aircraft back (in) Mogadishu Airport safely and without any further incident. All passengers, except one, disembarked safely,” it said, adding there was an investigation into “the cause of one missing passenger.”
Two passengers were taken to the hospital with minor injuries, it added.
“The investigation goes on,” Somali civil aviation director Abdiwahid Omar said on the state radio website.
Local authorities said the body of a passenger was found in the Balcad area, about 30 km (19 miles) north of Mogadishu.
Daallo Airlines, the national carrier of the tiny Horn of Africa country of Djibouti, had previously said the plane had 74 passengers on board.
Mohamed Hussein, an agent for Daallo, told Reuters on Tuesday that a “fire had erupted” on the flight.