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Somali officials say no evidence bomb tore hole in jet

A Daallo Airlines flight was forced to make an emergency landing, Feb. 2, 2016, in Mogadishu, Somalia, after a midair explosion ripped a hole in the side of the plane.

CBS

Last Updated Feb 3, 2016 11:36 AM EST

Somali officials said Wednesday there was no evidence, thus far, to suggest criminal activity caused a massive hole to appear in the side of a passenger jet the previous day as it took off from Mogadishu.

However, as CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips reports, aviation experts say that if it walks like a bomb and talks like a bomb -- it's probably a bomb.

On Wednesday, U.S. officials told CBS News that they believe the incident appears to have been caused by a bomb.

That the massive hole in the cabin didn't result in mass casualties, was probably thanks only to where and when that thus-far undeclared bomb exploded.

Somalia's aviation director referred to the Airbus developing a "sudden defect." But it is pretty clear what caused that defect; a gaping hole in the plane's side.

One passenger was apparently blown out of the hole -- his body found later.

Surviving passengers said they heard a tell-tale bang.

A Somali diplomat on board, Awake Kullane, recorded some of the chaos on his cell phone. He said he shared the same fears as everyone else on board -- that they were they going to die.

"We saw a hole in the plane and the first thing you think about is can we make it... it was really traumatising and those first few minutes I thought, 'can we make it?'"

All but one of the passengers and crew did survive, likely because the explosion occurred early in the climb out of Mogadishu; as the plane was at a relatively low altitude, there was no violent decompression and the aircraft held together.

That allowed the pilot -- a 64 year old Serbian -- to land the Daallo Airlines flight back at Mogadishu, just minutes after it took off in the direction of Djibouti, in the Horn of Africa.

While Somali officials say they've found no evidence of a criminal act, the hole torn in the fuselage shows all the signs of an explosion.

"That's a bomb. That hole is caused by a bomb," aviation consultant Denny Kelly told CBS News. "They'll be able to tell that, or they probably already know."

Back on the ground, the surviving passengers calmly collected their belongings and filed off the plane.

In Somalia, a country enduring a seemingly-endless civil war against Islamic militants, this was just another close call.