An explosion and fire blew a gaping hole in a commercial airliner, forcing it to make an emergency landing at Mogadishu's international airport late Tuesday, officials and witnesses say. The pilot says he thought it was a bomb, and an aviation expert who looked at photographs of the hole in the fuselage says the damage was consistent with an explosive device. Two people were slightly injured as 74 passengers and crew were evacuated after the plane made a safe landing, Somali aviation official Ali Mohamoud says. It's not clear if all the passengers have been accounted for. There have been unverified reports that a passenger fell out of the hole in the plane.
The plane, operated by Daallo Airlines and headed to Djibouti, was forced to land minutes after taking off from the Mogadishu airport, says Mohamoud. "We don't know a lot, but certainly it looks like a device," aviation safety expert John Goglia tells the AP. "There are only two things that could have caused a hole in the plane that looks like the one in photos circulated online—a bomb or a pressurization blowout caused by a flaw or fatigue in the plane's skin," he says, adding that since the event apparently took place during the takeoff phase of flight—before the plane reached 30,000 feet, where there's maximum pressurization—a blowout seems very unlikely. (Read more Somalia stories.)