A suspected suicide bomber who detonated on board a Somalia-owned Daallo Airlines plane last week on a flight from Mogadishu to Djibouti was meant to be on a Turkish Airlines flight. Many other passengers aboard the flight were also originally checked in with Turkish Airlines, the head of Daallo Airlines told Reuters on Monday.
"That particular passenger [who was behind the blast] boarded the aircraft on a Turkish Airlines boarding pass and was on the list for the Turkish Airlines manifest," Mohamed Yassin reportedly said.
The alleged bomber blew a hole in the side of the Daallo Airlines jet in mid-air as it took off from Aden Adde International Airport in Somalia’s capital of Mogadishu last Tuesday. The force of the explosion ejected the bomber from the plane’s cabin and his body tumbled out near the district of Bal’ad, about 20 miles from the capital, where it was recovered by authorities. The Airbus A321 was forced to make an emergency landing just minutes after takeoff.
Investigators suspect a wheelchair passenger who was able to bypass rigorous security screening at the airport and board the commercial plane may have been a suicide bomber responsible for Tuesday’s explosion. Somali officials said the passenger who fell from the plane has been identified as Abdullahi Abdisalam Borleh, 55, from Somaliland. But they did not confirm if the man was the alleged suicide bomber.
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The crew and 73 other passengers on board survived, though two people, Abdirashid Abdi Islamil and Ismail Ali Osoble, were wounded. Yassin, the Daallo Airlines chief executive, said nearly all of the passengers who were aboard the bombed Somali flight were originally scheduled to fly with Turkish Airlines, which canceled its flight due to bad weather.
"They were not our passengers. Turkish Airlines cancelled its flight from Mogadishu that morning because their incoming flight from Djibouti could not come to Mogadishu because of what they said was strong wind," Yassin told Al Jazeera on Sunday. "They requested we carry the passengers on their behalf to Djibouti where they would continue their journey on a Turkish Airlines flight.”
Turkish Airlines, which flies to Somalia three times a week, suspended its flights to the East African country after Tuesday’s incident.
"Turkish Airlines have not been in contact with us since the incident happened. You can say they are trying to distance themselves from the incident." Yassin told Al Jazeera.
No group has yet taken responsibility for the blast, but a U.S. government source told Reuters last week that the United States suspects al-Shabab was behind the attack. The Somalia-based terrorist group, which is aligned with al Qaeda, has increased efforts in recent months to regain control of lost territories in Somalia, while seeking to topple the country’s Western-backed government. The militants recaptured Somalia's key port city of Merca, some 45 miles from the capital, on Friday.
Al-Shabab emerged in 2006 from the now-defunct Islamic Courts Union that controlled Mogadishu. The al Qaeda affiliate launched its own insurgency on major Somali cities by 2009, controlling Mogadishu and southern Somalia until it was driven out by domestic and international forces around 2012. Many rural areas of Somalia are still controlled by al-Shabab and the Sunni militant group regularly targets civilians, hotels and restaurants in the capital.