MOGADISHU, Feb 3, (Agencies): A man was killed in an explosion on an Airbus A321 that made a hole in the fuselage and forced the plane to return to the Somali capital of Mogadishu to make an emergency landing, officials said on Wednesday. Somalia’s civil aviation director, Abdiwahid Omar, told the state radio website that a person was missing after the Daallo Airlines plane landed on Tuesday and the body had been found. “The investigation goes on,” Omar said, without mentioning any explosion or what had forced the plane to return except to say there was a “sudden defect” reported by the captain. Local authorities in the Balcad area, about 30 km north of Mogadishu, said the body of man, believed to have been sucked out of the plane, was found in the area. A police officer at Mogadishu airport said, “The dead body of the passenger is being transported to Mogadishu.” The officer, who asked not to be named, told Reuters that the man was about 55 years old. “He dropped when the explosion occurred in the plane,” he said. Daallo Airlines said on its Facebook page on Tuesday that the plane, operated by Hermes Airlines, took off from Mogadishu and was bound for Djibouti with 74 passengers on board before it “experienced an incident” that forced it to return.
It had said all the passengers were evacuated safely. The airline had no immediate additional comment on Wednesday. Mohamed Hussein, an agent for Daallo, had told Reuters on Tuesday that a “fire had exploded” and two passengers were slightly wounded. Aviation website http://www. airlive.net said witnesses heard a loud bang. Images of the plane showed a hole in the fuselage over one of the wings. Daallo flies to several destinations in the Horn of Africa and the Middle East, its website showed. Meanwhile, officials at Somalia’s civil aviation authority said Wednesday they had found no evidence so far of a criminal act in an explosion in an airliner which took off from Mogadishu’s airport and returned for an emergency landing. Investigators moved the plane from the runway to a private hangar.
Foreign technical experts were involved in the inquiry, said Ali Mohamoud, an aviation official at the Mogadishu airport. The pilot said he thought the blast was caused by a bomb. Two passengers on board the flight that was headed to Djibouti in the Horn of Africa said they heard a loud bang, suggesting an explosion that left a hole in the passenger cabin. Awale Kullane, Somalia’s deputy ambassador to the UN who was on board the flight, said on Facebook that he “heard a loud noise and couldn’t see anything but smoke for a few seconds.” When visibility returned they realized “quite a chunk” of the plane was missing, he wrote. The plane was headed to Djibouti when the blast happened minutes after takeoff. An official investigation is underway and a preliminary report will be issued later this week, officials said. Although Mohamoud said that there were only two injuries, there were unverified reports that a person fell out of the hole. Daallo Airlines said in a brief statement posted on its Facebook page that the Airbus A321 plane was operated by Hermes Airlines. It said the plane “experienced an incident shortly after take-off.” “The Aircraft landed safely and all of our passengers were evacuated safely. A thorough investigation is being conducted by Somalia Civil Aviation Authority,” the Daallo statement said.