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Al Shabaab Says It Carried Out Somalia Plane Attack

In an emailed statement, the al Qaeda affiliate said the attack was an act of revenge against ongoing Western intelligence operations in Somalia.
February 13, 2016, 2:45pm
Image via AP

The Somali militant group al Shabaab has claimed responsibility for the bomb attack on board Daallo Airlines Flight D3159 earlier this month.

In an emailed statement, the group said the attack was an act of revenge against ongoing Western intelligence operations in Somalia.

"Harakat Al-Shabaab Al Mujahideen carried out the airborne operation as a retribution for the crimes committed by the coalition of Western crusaders and their intelligence agencies against the Muslims of Somalia," the statement said.

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The statement, if authentic, confirms US intelligence suspicions that al Shabaab, an al Qaeda affiliate, was behind the explosion. According to Daallo's chief executive, the suspected suicide bomber was meant to be on a Turkish Airlines flight which was canceled due to bad weather.

Related: Somali Militant Group al Shabaab Uses Donald Trump in Video to Recruit New US Followers

The blast occurred shortly after takeoff en route to Djibouti. The pilot was able to land back on the tarmac in Mogadishu safely, and 74 passengers and crew members were evacuated from the aircraft. The explosion ripped through the side of the aircraft, creating a meter-wide hole. The suspected suicide bomber was sucked from the pressurized cabin and out of the hole. The body was found outside of Mogadishu. At least two people were hospitalized after sustaining injuries from the blast.

Airport employees in Somalia reportedly handed a laptop filled with explosives to the suspected suicide bomber who blew a hole in the side of an airplane departing Mogadishu last week, according to authorities who released video footage allegedly showing the exchange.

In the CCTV footage, two workers, one wearing an orange vest, can be seen walking through the airport terminal and briefly stopping as they appear to hand something over to another man. The video was released by the Somali National Intelligence Agency (NISA). A government spokesman said that the object being handed over was the laptop used to carry out the attack.

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Mogadishu's heavily guarded airport, which is often compared to the fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, has several safety perimeter fences and checkpoints. It houses a large United Nations compound along with several other Western embassies.

Al Shabaab has previously targeted foreign vehicles and convoys traveling along the road between Mogadishu and the international airport, which is also near the United Nations compound. The Islamist extremist group has waged an insurgency in the East African nation since 2006 with the aim of toppling the Somali government. Al Shabaab militants carried out a car bombing at a Turkish embassy office in 2013.

The Somali militant group has been active so far in 2016. In January, five gunmen from the group attacked a popular beachfront restaurant, killing 17 people. The fighters also set off two car bombs nearby.

Related: Kenya College Reopens Months After Al Shabaab Attack Killed 148

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