February 13, 2016 12:32 pm

Al-Shabab claims responsibility for plane bombing in Somalia

In this Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016 photo, a hole is photographed in a plane operated by Daallo Airlines as it sits on the runway of the airport in Mogadishu, Somalia. A gaping hole in the commercial airliner forced it to make an emergency landing at Mogadishu's international airport late Tuesday, officials and witnesses said. (AP Photo)

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MOGADISHU, Somalia – Somalia’s Islamic extremist rebels, al-Shabab, said Saturday they carried out the bombing of a commercial passenger jet earlier this month that blew a hole in the fuselage, sucking out the suspected bomber and forcing the plane to make an emergency landing.

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The explosion targeted Western and Turkish intelligence agents aboard the Daallo Airlines flight to Djibouti on Feb. 2, al-Shabab said in a statement. It said the bombing had been planned to destroy the Airbus 321 plane but it failed. Al-Shabab, who are allied to al-Qaida, said they will continue such attacks.

READ MORE: Airplane security is ‘zero’ in Somalia: pilot

The bomb exploded shortly after takeoff from Mogadishu airport, when the plane was at 11,000 feet and ascending. Experts say if the plane had been at its intended cruising altitude of 30,000 feet, the explosion could have brought down the aircraft.

Security video footage taken at Mogadishu airport shows two men handing what looks like a laptop computer to the suspected suicide bomber after he passed through the security checkpoint. Somali authorities say at least one of the men delivering the laptop was an airport employee. Authorities believe the laptop-like device was the bomb that caused the explosion. At least 20 people including the airport employee have been arrested in connection to the attack.

READ MORE: Somali officials say suicide bomber may have blown hole in jet

Abdullahi Abdisalam Borleh, the suspected suicide bomber, was a passenger and was blown out of the plane.

Al-Shabab is waging an insurgency against Somalia’s western-backed government and has been targeting Turkish interests and personnel in the country. The Turkish government is a key ally of Somalia and is helping with efforts to rebuild the war-torn country. Al-Shabab has carried out attacks on neighbouring countries who have contributed troops to an African Union peacekeeping force bolstering the Somali government against the extremists.

© 2016 The Associated Press

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