Turkish president visits war-torn Somalia


TurkishPresidentVistToSomalia20150125Agence France-Presse

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan arrived in war-torn Somalia on Jan. 25 amid tight security, a rare visit by a foreign leader to the war-torn nation.

Hundreds of soldiers and police officers had shut down much of the capital’s streets, where on Jan. 22 five people were killed in a suicide attack on a hotel housing the Turkish delegation in Mogadishu.

Somalia’s Al-Qaeda-affiliated Shebab rebels — who are fighting to overthrow the country’s internationally-backed government — said they carried out the bombing, the latest in a string of attacks by the group against high-profile targets in Mogadishu.

Erdoğan was welcomed at the new Turkish-renovated airport by his counterpart, Somali President Hassan Sheik Mohamud.

Turkey is a major investor in Somalia, including carrying out a series of major construction projects in a city left devastated by over two decades of war, and now undergoing a major building boom.

Erdoğan last visited Mogadishu in 2013 as the then prime minister, the second major leader to visit the city in years, a few months after Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni.

He remains one of the most high profile visitors to Mogadishu.

Erdoğan had originally planned to visit Mogadishu on Friday, but postponed the trip to attend the funeral of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah.

The visit to Somalia ends Erdoğan’s Horn of Africa tour, which has included visits to Ethiopia and Djibouti, a key port on the Gulf of Aden and the entrance to the Red Sea.

Both countries contribute troops to the more than 20,000-strong African Union force in Somalia, which is battling the Shebab.

Shebab fighters have in the past three years lost swathes of territory and towns to the AU force and Somali government troops, and their leader was killed in a US air strike in September.

But they still remain a potent threat.

Security remains a major concern in Somalia, with the government due to hold a referendum on a new constitution next year ahead of general elections in 2016.