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Al-Shabab Suspected in Mid-Flight Somali Plane Blast

An aircraft belonging to Daallo Airlines is parked at the Aden Abdulle international airport after making an emergency landing following an explosion inside the plane in Somalia's capital Mogadishu, Feb. 3, 2016.

Somali officials investigating an apparent bomb blast that forced a passenger jet to make an emergency landing in Mogadishu say the explosion was likely the work of militant group al-Shabab.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior security official told VOA's Somali Service that investigators have evidence that al-Shabab was behind the blast and that they will present their conclusions soon.

Somalia's former national intelligence director, Ahmed Moallim Fiqi, said the nature of the incident and the evidence available so far both indicate it was "a planned bomb attack."

Local authorities in the Balad District north of Mogadishu found the dismembered body of a man believed to have fallen from the plane soon after it landed at Mogadishu International Airport on Tuesday. One of the passengers was missing and there was a hole on the right side of the fuselage.

Investigators suspect the blast sucked the man out of the plane through the hole.

Fiqi said he received information that the suspected bomber intentionally placed himself at that spot in the plane, near a fuel tank.

“We are getting reliable [intelligence] information that the suspected bomber disputed with another passenger who was sitting [in] the seat above the center wing tank of the airliner, saying it was his seat," said Fiqi. "Another passenger mediated [between] them, letting the suspected bomber sit there — of course with purpose."

He said the intention of the suspected bomber was likely to cause a huge explosion that could break the plane into pieces.

The plane was a commercial flight chartered by the Somali airline Daallo.

Somali aviation official Ali Ibrahim said they estimate the plane was at an altitude of more than 12,000 feet when the blast occurred, about 15 minutes after the plane took off from the Mogadishu airport, bound for Djibouti. Daallo said 74 passengers were on board.