Explosive residue found in Somalia airline incident

2016-02-04 22:33


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Man sucked from plane in Somali blast

2016-02-03 12:56

One passenger was sucked from a plane in a mid-air explosion outside Mogadishu, Somalia. The dramatic explosion occurred minutes into the flight and forced the pilot to make an emergency landing on Tuesday.WATCH

Dubai - The head of the airline whose jet was damaged in an explosion shortly after take-off from Somalia said Thursday that investigators have found what appears to be residue from explosives, though he cautioned that the findings were inconclusive.

Still, the preliminary discovery lends weight to the possibility that a bomb was to blame for the blast that tore through the Airbus 321 shortly after take-off from the Somali capital Mogadishu.

"There's a residue, they're saying, of explosives. ... There's a trace," Daallo Airlines CEO Mohammed Ibrahim Yassin said during an interview with The Associated Press at the carrier's corporate office in Dubai. "But that cannot really make 100% that it's a bomb," he added, saying that he expects initial findings to be released in a matter of days.

The plane's pilot, Captain Vlatko Vodopivec, has said previously that he and others were told the explosion was caused by a bomb.

Yassin too acknowledged that a bomb could have been to blame, saying "we cannot exclude anything right now." He declined to speculate who might be responsible.

No group has claimed responsibility for the blast. Somalia faces an insurgency from the Islamic extremist group al-Shabaab, which has carried out deadly attacks in Somalia and neighbouring countries.

The Airbus A321 was carrying 74 passengers when the explosion struck. One passenger remains unaccounted for, though residents in the town of Balad, 30km north of Mogadishu, have found the body of a man who may have been blown from the plane.

All but four of the passengers originally had tickets with Turkish Airways and were rebooked on the Daallo flight after cancelled flights left them stranded in the Somali capital, Yassin said.

He suggested the Turkish Airlines' decision to scrap two flights may have been linked to intelligence it received about a possible security threat.

"We think, you know, Turkish airlines got a sort of security alert that they haven't passed to us," he said. He added that it is not unusual for flights in and out of Mogadishu to be cancelled at short notice.

Bad weather

A Turkish Airlines official said a number of flights out of Turkey were cancelled this week, including on Tuesday, due to bad weather, and said there were no cancellations for security reasons. The official was not authorised to comment publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Turkish Airlines spokesperson Yahya Ustun also said the cancellations were because of the weather, saying an unspecified number of flights were grounded "due to operational reasons required in the framework of bad weather conditions."

Daallo has temporarily suspended its operations in the Somali capital following Tuesday's incident but hopes to restart them soon, said Yassin, the airline's chief executive.

He described security at Mogadishu airport as "good" and multilayered, and "much better than it used to be." Authorities and the airline will nonetheless intensify security checks in the wake of Tuesday's incident, he said.

Daallo typically operates around 15 flights a week to Mogadishu from Somali and nearby international destinations.

Its flight on Tuesday was operated by Hermes Airlines, which is based in Athens, Greece, under a lease agreement. Hermes officials have not commented on the incident.

Experts from Somalia and Greece are involved in the investigation into the blast.

Read more on:    daallo airlines  |  somalia  |  east africa

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