Friday, February 5, 2016

Investigators Confirm Suicide Bomber Caused Somalia Airliner Blast: Western diplomat briefed on investigation says TNT residue was found on remains of the suspect

Daallo Airlines, Airbus A321-100, SX-BHS, Flight D3-159


The Wall Street Journal
By Heidi Vogt
Updated Feb. 5, 2016 11:11 a.m. ET


NAIROBI, Kenya—Somali and international investigators have confirmed that the man ejected from a Airbus A321 over Somalia by a blast aboard the airplane was a suicide bomber, an official briefed on the probe said Friday.

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that investigators believed a passenger may have been responsible for the blast that blew a hole in the fuselage of the Djibouti-bound plane and forced the aircraft to return to the Somali capital Mogadishu for an emergency landing.

The account, quoting a Western diplomat in contact with investigators, also said the passenger may have boarded the Daallo Airlines flight in a wheelchair.

On Friday, the official said the investigators had found TNT residue on the remains of the man, who was sucked through the hole of the rapidly depressurizing plane and plummeted to the ground near the town of Balad, about 20 miles from Mogadishu. He was the only person killed in the incident. Two others were injured.

The Somali government initially said a mechanical problem caused the blast, but it soon backtracked. The transport and aviation ministry issued a statement late Thursday saying authorities were trying to get the “real cause of the plane incident.” Foreign experts had been enlisted to help in the investigation, the statement said. U.S. experts are participating in the inquiry.

Authorities have identified the dead man as Abdullahi Abdisalam Borle, 55, from the breakaway region of Somaliland in northern Somalia. The use of a wheelchair may have helped him slip through security, the Western diplomat said.

Mohammed Ibrahim Yassin, chief executive of the Dubai-based Daallo Airlines, said there was evidence of explosive residue on the plane but it wasn’t conclusive. He also said that while he couldn’t confirm that Mr. Borle was the bomber, it would explain why members of his family haven’t emerged.

“Nobody is coming forward and saying, ‘We know his passenger,’” he said.

A man who was on board the plane said later he heard a big bang just after passengers were notified they could unfasten their seat belts. The cabin then filled with smoke, and he saw a gaping hole in the side of the craft.

“Everything changed into chaos, people screaming, shouting ‘Oh my God, protect us,” said 37-year-old Suleiman Isman Nuh, who runs an Internet provider in Mogadishu and was traveling to Djibouti with his mother to see a doctor.

Mr. Nuh said he saw an elderly man in a wheelchair at the check-in counter in the airport terminal but didn’t notice him on the plane.

An airport security officer who also saw the man said he appeared sick but not suspicious.

“He seemed like someone ill, and as officers we usually help elderly people with those wheelchairs when they come to get to flights,” said the officer, Saida Bare. “He was a quiet man and nothing seemed wrong there until the flight took off.”

Stephen Harley, a British security consultant working in Mogadishu, said his contacts inside the airport had told him about a suspicious passenger in a wheelchair but didn’t have more information. Mr. Harley, who is an adviser to the Somali president, said he was speaking in a personal capacity.

Tuesday’s explosion has focused suspicion on al-Shabaab, the Islamist extremist group that is seeking to overthrow the Somali government. Its fighters have attacked military, government and civilian targets both inside Somalia and in neighboring countries. However, there has been no claim of responsibility from al-Shabaab or any other group.

— Abdalle Ahmed Mumin in Nairobi and Nicolas Parasie in Dubai contributed to this article.

Original article can be found here:  http://www.wsj.com

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