‘Sophisticated’ Laptop Bomb From Somali Plane Blast Passed Through Security

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The laptop bomb that detonated on board a Somali passenger jet last week has been labelled a “sophisticated” device that made it through airport security, according to sources close to the investigation.

The device reportedly passed through security – including an X-ray machine – at Mogadishu airport in Somalia. It remains unclear what kind of machine the device passed through, but questions have been raised about the standard of security at the airport.

 

‘Sophisticated’ bomb

The attack is suspected to have been orchestrated by Islamist militant group Al-Shabaab, but if the device was indeed built by the group, it would mean a significant improvement in its bomb-making abilities.

Previous laptop bomb attacks carried out by Al-Shabaab have involved far cruder devices – most notably during an attack on a Mogadishu hotel in 2013. The device used at the time failed to detonate properly, before a separate car bomb killed six and injured more than a dozen.

 

Over 40 people arrested so far

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack at this stage, despite suspicion of an Al-Shabaab attack. Officials say 45 arrests have been made so far, including airport workers who handled the laptop bag containing the explosive device.

One airport worker, who can be seen wearing a white t-shirt in surveillance footage released by officials, died three days later when a vehicle he was in exploded. Another airport worker, present in the same surveillance footage, got out of the vehicle moments before the explosion. He has also been arrested as part of ongoing investigations.

 

Passengers saved by hour delay

Sources close to the investigation have said the man believed to have carried the bomb aboard was sitting in the precise spot needed to bring the entire aircraft down, killing everyone onboard. Had the plane reached cruising altitude, experts say the explosion would have been big enough to trigger a second, critical explosion in the aircraft’s fuel tank.

However, an hour-long delay prevented the flight from reaching cruising altitude at the expected time. Which meant the cabin wasn’t fully pressurised when the device detonated, resulting in a much smaller explosion than would have occurred at cruising altitude.