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Somali forces: Would-be flier was not carrying 'bomb-making materials'

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • In November, man tried to board flight with bag of ammonium nitrate and sulfuric acid
  • Somali Force commissioner: "[Abdi Hassan Abdi] was released from jail"
  • Somali arrest resembled Christmas Day terror attempt aboard Northwest flight to U.S.
RELATED TOPICS
  • Terrorism
  • Air Travel
  • Mogadishu

(CNN) -- Somali authorities said Thursday that a man arrested last month trying to board a commercial airliner in the country's capital was not carrying chemicals that could have caused an explosion, as an African Union official said.

Somali Force Commissioner Gen. Ali Mohamed Hassan Loyan said that airport security forces took into custody a man carrying "a suspicious chemical substance and a liquid readied in a syringe" on November 6 at Aden Abdulle Osman Mogadishu International Airport.

However, a government explosives expert examined the chemical and liquid and determined that they did not constitute "bomb-making material," Loyan said in a written statement.

The man was still charged with possessing a suspicious substance and attempting to sneak it onto a commercial flight, but a court found no conclusive evidence against him, Loyan said.

"As a result, the man was released from jail," he said. The man had said the chemicals were for X-rays, Loyan said.

Wafula Waminyinyi, the deputy special representative for the African Union Mission for Somalia, told CNN Wednesday that the man tried to board a Daallo Airlines flight with a plastic bag containing 600 grams of ammonium nitrate and half a liter of concentrated sulfuric acid in a plastic bottle.

The arrest caught worldwide attention this week because its details resemble those from the Christmas Day attempt to blow up a Northwest flight from Amsterdam, Netherlands, to Detroit, Michigan.

In the Detroit arrest, a preliminary FBI analysis found that the device that suspect Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab allegedly carried aboard contained pentaerythritol tetranitrate, an explosive also known as PETN. The amount of explosive was sufficient to blow a hole in the aircraft, a source with knowledge of the investigation told CNN Sunday.

Part of the explosive device was sewn into the suspect's underwear. FBI agents recovered what appear to be the remnants of a syringe near the seat.

In Somalia, Waminyinyi told CNN that the man, Abdi Hassan Abdi, also had approximately 5 milliliters of an unidentified liquid in a syringe that he tried to carry on board the flight, which was bound first for the northern Somali city of Hargeisa, then Djibouti, and then Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. He said that the African Union believes the chemicals could have caused an explosion.

The African Union official said the incident occurred on November 11. The reason for the discrepancy in dates was not immediately clear.

He said Abdi was arrested after African Union peacekeeping forces searched him and discovered the chemicals, Waminyinyi said.

He had drawn suspicion because he was the last one to board the flight, Waminyinyi said.