A passenger jet was forced to make an emergency landing after an explosion blew a gaping hole in its fuselage. The pilot of the plane, which was forced to land minutes after taking off from Somalia’s Mogadishu airport, said he thought a bomb was the cause.
An aviation expert who examined pictures of the hole in the fuselage said the damage was consistent with an explosive device.
There are unverified reports that a male passenger fell out of the hole caused by the blast.
Mohamed Hassan, a police officer in Balad town – 30km north of Mogadishu – said residents had found the dead body of an old man who might have fallen from a plane.
The plane, operated by Daallo Airlines, was headed to Djibouti in the Horn of Africa.
The Serbian pilot, Vladimir Vodopivec, told Belgrade newspaper Blic: “I think it was a bomb. Luckily, the flight controls were not damaged so I could return and land at the airport.
“Something like this has never happened in my flight career.
“We lost pressure in the cabin. Thank god it ended well.”
Somalia’s deputy ambassador to the UN Awale Kullane was on the plane, and wrote on Facebook that he “heard a loud noise and couldn’t see anything but smoke for a few seconds”.
When visibility returned they realised “quite a chunk” of the plane was missing, he added.
John Goglia, a former member of the US National Transportation Safety Board and an aviation security expert, said: “We don’t know a lot, but certainly it looks like a device.”
Mr Goglia added there were only two things that could have caused a hole in the jet like the one in the photos circulated online – a bomb or a pressurisation blowout caused by a flaw or fatigue in the plane’s skin.
The images appear to show black soot around the aircraft skin that is peeled back, Mr Goglia said, adding that a pressurisation blowout would not create soot, but a bomb would.
The fact that the explosion happened during take-off – and before the plane reached 30,000 feet where there is maximum pressurisation – made a blowout even less likely, according to Mr Goglia.
Passenger Mohamed Ali told the Associated Press that he and others heard a bang before flames caused a gaping hole in the jet’s side.
“I don’t know if it was a bomb or an electric shock, but we heard a bang inside the plane,” he said, adding he could not confirm reports passengers had fallen from the plane.