BELGRADE //The Serb pilot who landed an airliner in Somalia after a bomb blew a hole in it fuselage on Sunday described the security around the planes at Mogadishu Airport as “zero.”
A suicide bomber is suspected to have set off the explosive inside the plane, Somali officials said on Saturday. The blast sucked a male passenger out of the plane and forced the aircraft to make an emergency landing on Tuesday in Somalia’s capital.
The explosion happened about 15 minutes after the plane, with 74 passengers on board, took off from the airport and was at 3,300 metres ascending toward 9,000 metres.
“If we were higher, the whole plane could have disintegrated after the explosion,” said pilot Vlatko Vodopivec.
Because the plane was at a lower altitude, he was able to land it safely, Mr Vodopivec said. “The plane acted normally and we virtually returned normally. Engines and hydraulics worked normally.
The explosion killed one passenger, Abdullahi Abdisalam Borle, according to Somali officials who did not give further details. A man’s body was found in the town of Balad, 30 kilometres north of Mogadishu, according to police who said he might have been blown from the plane.
Borle is suspected to have been the suicide bomber, senior Somali civil aviation official said. Six people have been arrested in connection with the blast after examinations of CCTV images in the airport.
The pilot blamed the incident on the lack of security around the plane at Mogadishu Airport, describing the facility as chaotic.
“The security is zero. When we park there, some 20 to 30 people come to the tarmac,” said Mr Vodopivec, a veteran pilot who has made numerous flights to the airport. “No one has a badge or those yellow vests. They enter and leave the plane, and no one knows who is who ... They can put anything inside when passengers leave the aircraft.”
Somalia’s government has said it will tighten security at the airport to prevent other threats.
Somalia faces an insurgency from extremist group Al Shabab, which has carried out deadly attacks in Somalia and neighbouring countries.
Daallo Airlines, which is based in Dubai, has temporarily suspended its operations in Somalia’s capital following the incident but hopes to restart them soon, said Mohammed Ibrahim Yassin, the airline’s chief executive.