Turkish president visits Somalia under tight security


Somali and Turkish special forcesTurkish President Tayyip Erdogan travelled to the Somali capital Mogadishu under heavy security on Sunday, making his second visit in four years to promise further investment in the country as it struggles to rebuild after two decades of conflict.

Erdogan, who in 2011 became the first non-African leader to go to Somalia in nearly 20 years, visited various projects that have benefited from Turkish investment, including a new airport terminal and a rehabilitated seaport.

Turkey was a major contributor to the humanitarian aid effort at the height of the 2011 famine and Ankara continues to build hospitals and dispatch aid across Somalia.In a statement welcoming the visit, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said Turkish aid has been a “force of nature” for Somalia.

“Turkey did not hold back, waiting for stability before it invested. Instead, it invested to achieve it,” he said.

Mogadishu has been under a virtual lockdown since late last week in anticipation of Erdogan’s visit, which was delayed while Erdogan went to Saudi Arabia to pay his condolences on the death of King Abdullah.

A suicide bomber on Thursday rammed a car laden with explosives into the gate of a Mogadishu hotel where Turkish and Somali delegates were meeting, killing two security guards.

The Somali Islamist group Al Shabaab, which has carried out attacks across east Africa including a 2013 raid on a Nairobi shopping mall that killed 67, claimed responsibility for the assault but did not mention the delegations or Erdogan.

There have been attacks on Turkish interests in Somalia before. In July 2013, a car loaded with explosives rammed into an office housing Turkish embassy staff in Mogadishu, killing three people. That attack was also claimed by al Shabaab.

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Turkey’s president opened a new Turkish embassy in Somalia’s capital on Friday amid heavy security less than two days after militants attacked a hotel in the city, killing 15 people.

The al-Shabab extremist group, which is waging an insurgency against Somalia’s weak government, has claimed responsibility for the attack on the Ambassador Hotel in Mogadishu.

This is Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s third visit to Somalia. He is the only non-African president to visit war-ravaged Somalia in decades. Erdogan visited Somalia last year, a day after al-Shabab attacked a hotel hosting Turkish delegates and killed at least six people.

On Friday, Erdogan cut a ribbon to the new beachfront Turkish embassy in Mogadishu, calling it the largest and most advanced Turkish embassy in Africa.

“Our projects in Somalia will continue,” he said.

Somali president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud praised Turkey’s support for Somalia, saying that its engagement attests to how the Turkish government is committed to helping the country, which is recovering from decades of war.

Erdogan is also scheduled to hold talks with Somali leaders as the country prepares for a presidential election this year. Erdogan also visited Kenya and Uganda before coming to Mogadishu.



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