Somali authorities now know that a laptop computer bomb exploded on Daallo Airlines Flight 3159 shortly after take-off on Tuesday, creating a large hole in the side of the jet and killing the man, a Somali national who may be affiliated with the terrorist group Al Shabaab, believed to have brought the device on board. While two other passengers were reportedly injured, the pilot was able to safely land the plane.
CNN reported February 5 that Somali officials have identified the laptop bomber of the Somali airliner as Abdullahi Abdisalam Borleh, an elderly Somali national. It is as yet unclear if the man has ties with the al Qaeda associated Al Shabaab but investigators believe the inflight detonation may have been orchestrated by the terrorist group.
A source familiar with the investigation told CNN that Borleh’s seating looked designed to do the maximum amount of damage. However, it appears that he detonated what authorities believe to be military grade explosives — either comprised the portable computer or was hidden inside the laptop itself — a bit too soon. The explosion occurred somewhere between 12,000 and 14,000 feet. According to the source, had the detonation occurred at cruising altitude (about 30,000 feet), the explosion would have ruptured nearby fuel tanks in a sympathetic secondary explosion and most likely destroyed and/or crashed the jet.
As it happened, though, the terrorist succeeded in blowing open only an almost door-sized hole in the side of the plane above the right, or starboard, wing. This caused a slight depressurization in the cabin. And instead of bringing down the airliner and all aboard, Borleh only managed to bring himself down, getting himself sucked out the hole he apparently created. Somali investigators later found a man’s body near Mogadishu — the site of the airliner’s departure — they believe fell from plane.
The pilot was able to fly the damaged Airbus A321-111 back to Mogadishu International Airport. It had been returning to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, its point of origin when the laptop bomb went off.
Daallo Airlines CEO Mohammed Ibrahim Yassin stated at a press conference Thursday that explosive residue was believed to have been found on the aircraft, according to the Associated Press. ABC News reported that an FBI team arrived in Somalia Friday to help in the investigation.
At present, no terrorist organization has taken responsibility for the laptop bombing. Authorities are looking into possible ISIS involvement as well, given that 70 of the 74 passengers aboard Daallo Airlines Flight 3159 were originally scheduled to fly on a Turkish aircraft. Turkey is involved in the war against ISIS in the Middle East.