Homeland Security

Intel Chairman: Somalia Plane Explosion a 'Sobering Reminder' of al-Qaeda Threat

A hole is seen in a plane operated by Daallo Airlines as it sits on the runway of the airport in Mogadishu, Somalia, on Feb. 2, 2016. (AP Photo)

The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee warned today that a plane bombing in Somalia is a stark reminder that al-Qaeda is still very much a threat.

Daallo Airlines said one of its A321 planes was about 15 minutes into a flight from Mogadishu to Djibouti on Tuesday “when the incident happened which caused a hole in the fuselage.”

“However, pilots managed to land the aircraft back to Mogadishu Airport safely and without any further incident,” the airline said in a statement. “All passengers, except one, disembarked safely after aircraft landed at the airport and currently investigations are underway to ascertain the cause of one missing passenger. Two passengers have been reported to have suffered minor injuries and they were taken to the hospital for treatment.”

The Civil Aviation Authority in Mogadishu and Airbus are among those investigating the incident, Daallo said.

The Somali-owned airline based out of Dubai added that they have been “operating in the region for more than 25 years with excellent safety record and without any fatality” under European Union regulations and using “highly qualified and experienced pilots from Europe.”

The passenger sucked out of the plane was identified as Abdullahi Abdisalam Borleh; his body was found in a town 20 miles from Mogadishu. It’s not yet known if he was the bomber, but investigators are speculating that he could have smuggled a bomb on board in his wheelchair.

“While it is too early to confirm that extremists associated with al-Shabaab were responsible for the explosion on board a Daallo Airlines plane on Tuesday, it fits with the group’s public rhetoric, intent, and capabilities,” Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said today.

“It is a sobering reminder that while much of the public discourse on terrorist threats to the United States and our allies is focused on ISIL, we cannot discount the ever present global threat posed by al-Qaeda and its affiliates.”

Al-Shabaab remains allied to al-Qaeda even though there has been some intrafamily squabbling about whether the terror group should pledge allegiance to ISIS.

The plane incident came just a few days after the release of an al-Shabaab video featuring ISIS-style threats to strike at the West and George W. Bush quotes to try to lure western Muslims to jihad.

“To the Muslims I say again, the only thing we want from you is to stand behind us and our chests will be in the forefront in striving to eliminate the oppression that you live in. Just stand behind us and we will defend you,” an al-Shabaab terrorist said in the video. “Furthermore, we are warning you of allying yourselves with the kuffar and acting as human shields for them. Therefore, my dear brothers, do not be afraid. Come on and join our ranks.”