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Terror Attack: Did Somali Airline Bomber Exit, Stage Right?

The investigation continues but the latest update regarding the in-flight explosion on a Somalia airliner indicates that the suspected bomber was the only person killed.

Investigators have identified Abdullahi Abdisalam Borleh, a 55-year-old Somalia national, whose body was recovered after he was ejected from the Airbus A321-111 after the explosion. Authorities believe military-grade TNT was hidden in a laptop that caused the explosion last Tuesday.

Members of the FBI have arrived in Somalia to help with the investigation.

“This was a sophisticated attack … so we reached out to our international partners,” Abdisalam Aato, a spokesman for the Somalian Prime Minister, told CNN.

Only fortunate circumstances prevented a catastrophic crash. The bomber was seated on the right side of the aircraft in a row above the wing. Daallo Airlines Flight 3159 had just taken off and between 12,000 and 14,000 feet when the bomb detonated.

If the explosion had occurred at cruising altitude – above 30,000 – there could have been two deadly outcomes. The bomb could have set off a secondary explosion in the fuel tank or the de-pressurization of the cabin at that altitude could have ripped apart the fuselage.

Video taken by a passenger on the plane shows the hole caused by the explosion. Once it landed safely, pictures taken by investigators show the skin of the fuselage curled outward, plus soot from the blast trailing toward the tail. That further supports the theory that it was an on-board explosion. Also, explosive residue has been found around the blast area.

The pilot was able to land the plane at Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia. The airline said there were “approximately” 70 passengers on board and that two of them suffered injuries.

A source that spoke with CNN said that authorities believe the attack was orchestrated by the al Qaeda affiliate Al Shabaab, which has had a long-running battle with Somalia. The country’s transportation minister has confirmed that the incident was an act of terrorism and that the blast was not a technical failure of the aircraft.

Below are two videos showing the aftermath from the explosion including the emergency descent and inspection of the damage upon arrival:



Written by Wendell Barnhouse

Wendell Barnhouse is a veteran journalist with over 40 years of experience as a writer and an editor. For the last 30 years, he wrote about college sports but he has had an interest and curiosity about aviation since he was in grade school.

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