Al-Shabaab claims responsibility for Somalia in-flight jet blast

Why Al-Shabaab is a growing threat
Why Al-Shabaab is a growing threat

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Story highlights

  • Al-Shabaab claims responsibility for February 2 bomb blast on a Somali passenger plane
  • The explosion was caused by a laptop computer containing a bomb, authorities say
  • The alleged bomber was sucked out of the airliner through a hole from the blast

(CNN)The jihadist group Al-Shabaab on Saturday claimed responsibility for a bomb blast on a Somali passenger plane this month -- an explosion that authorities say killed only the alleged bomber.

The Daallo Airlines plane, which took off from Somalia's capital bound for Djibouti on February 2, landed back in Mogadishu despite the blast, which Somali authorities say was caused by a laptop computer containing a bomb.
    The bomber -- identified by authorities as Abdullahi Abdisalam Borleh -- was sucked out of the airliner through a hole from the explosion.
    In a statement released online, Al-Shabaab said the operation targeted "Western intelligence officials and Turkish NATO forces aboard the airplane bound for Djibouti."
    The statement admitted that the bombing did not go as planned.
    "While the operation did not bring down the plane as Allah had decreed, it struck terror in the hearts of the crusaders," the statement reads.
    The group vowed to continue targeting "Western intelligence teams" that operate in Somalia.
    The statement called the bombing "retribution for the crimes committed by the coalition of Western crusaders and their intelligence agencies against the Muslims of Somalia." It said the attack was intended to stanch "the flow of Western crusaders into this Muslim land."
    At the time of the blast, the Daallo plane was estimated to between at an altitude of 12,000 to 14,000 feet after taking off from Mogadishu International Airport.
    Investigators suspect the attacker, a Somali national, carried the laptop computer with a bomb in it onto the flight, a source close to the investigation told CNN.
    The bomber knew precisely where to sit and how to place the device to maximize damage, the source told CNN. Given the placement, the blast likely would have set off a catastrophic secondary explosion in the fuel tank if the aircraft had reached cruising altitude, the source said.
    If Al-Shabaab did indeed build the explosive device, it represents a significant elevation in its bomb-making capabilities, according to analysts. Given the sophistication of the device, one possibility is that al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen -- al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula -- shared technology with the group.
    AQAP bomb-maker Ibrahim al Asiri has been developing a new generation of explosive devices concealed in electronics, according to Western intelligence officials, and there are indications the group has shared this technology with al Qaeda affiliates in Syria.
    Al-Shabaab has been behind some of the worst violence in recent years in and around Somalia. Some of it targeted tourists, such as last month's deadly attack on a beachside restaurant-hotel complex in Mogadishu. Young people also have been targets, as shown in the massacre at Kenya's Garissa University College. And the general public hasn't escaped the group's violence, as evidenced in a 2013 assault on an upscale mall in Nairobi.
    Yet this Islamist extremist group has recently gotten competition from ISIS, with a high-ranking Al-Shabaab member and spiritual leader pledging allegiance to the rival group last fall.
    Al-Shabaab has been behind some of the worst violence in recent years in and around Somalia. Some of it targeted tourists, such as last month's deadly attack on a beach restaurant-hotel complex in Mogadishu. Young people also have been targets, as shown in the massacre at Kenya's Garissa University College. And the general public hasn't escaped the group's violence, as evidenced in a 2013 assault on an upscale mall in Nairobi.
    Yet this Islamist extremist group has recently gotten competition from ISIS, with a high-ranking Al-Shabaab member and spiritual leader pledging allegiance to the rival group last fall.
    The airport is home to offices of the United Nations, African Union and many diplomatic missions, including those of the United States and European Union.
    In November 2013, Al-Shabaab deployed a laptop bomb at Mogadishu's Hotel Maka.
    A confidential source close to that investigation at the time provided photos of the device, saying they show that the bomb was faulty. The incomplete detonation, however, led people in the hotel to run outside the building, and when first-responders arrived, a suicide bomber drove a car bomb into the group, killing six and injuring more than a dozen.