It was a bomb that brought the airplane down

In a departure from usual protocol, which ordinarily sees statements about an air accident investigation made by the lead investigator, this country’s Transport Minister has gone public yesterday with a statement which attributes the explosion on a flight earlier in the week to a bomb.

Somalia’s Transport Minister, Ali Ahmed Jamac, said Daallo Air’s flight D3-159 had to make an emergency landing due to a bomb that exploded not long after take off.

The February 2 incident was initially slow in making it into the global headlines after only one live was lost and the plane returned safely to the ground by the cockpit crew.

Passengers were evacuated from the plane by stairs after taxing to a regular parking position, not the usual slide emergency evacuation at a more distant location from the terminal.

It could not be independently verified if the minister’s statement was merely rhetoric or based on fact, as other sources have remained silent on the cause, awaiting forensic evidence to first confirm the nature of the explosion.

However, if the blast will indeed be confirmed to have been caused by an explosive device brought on board, it will cast a major cloud over the airport security arrangements in Mogadishu, that it was not detected when screening passengers and their bags. The airport, which adjoins a so-called safe zone, is guarded by troops from the African Union which are deployed to Somalia to defeat terror group Al Shabab and return the country to democratic rule. However, Al Shabab keeps launching periodic attacks on the capital, including hotels, restaurants, and the airport and still holds significant parts of the country under the draconian rule. Notably, Al Shabab has until now not claimed responsibility for the incident nor has any other known terror group associated with a presence in Somalia.

There is broad consensus among aviation experts that, had the device gone off at cruising altitude, the consequences could have been much more severe, including – like happened to a Russian aircraft flying holidaymakers from Egypt back home – a midair breakup with the subsequent loss of all lives on board. There, too, a lapse in airport security was named as the major cause for an explosive device to have made it on board the aircraft, leading to major procedural reviews and renewed screening of staff, with one suspect now reportedly in custody.

The Daallo flight was enroute from Mogadishu to Djibouti when the incident happened and the airline has since resumed flights between the two countries with reportedly sharply increased security measures now in place.